See award-winning COCK – you won’t regret it

REVIEW

Cock by Mike Bartlett

Minerva Theatre, Chichester

Mike Bartlett is a master of dialogue, especially in triangular relationships where visceral emotions surface. Anyone knows that if they became immersed in the recent BBC TV series Dr Foster. This revival of his earlier award-winning play Cock, first produced at the Royal Court in 2009, lights up Chichester’s Minerva stage with coruscating brilliance.

On a bare stage, with no props, scenery, or furniture, John and his seven-year boyfriend quickly introduce us to their strong gay relationship, which has become strained. John insists to his partner that he loves everything about him and living with him, but he feels put down and unable to express himself.

Matthew Needham and Luke Thallon in COCK by Mike Bartlett at Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by The Other Richard

Soon we learn that John has met a woman, they have had sex, he has fallen for her, and wants to leave M (that is his partner’s name in the programme, where only John is named). He says that he and the woman have met on the street regularly on the way to work, and, in time, one thing led to another. Before long, however, John wants to come back to M.

The play then recalls John’s meeting and rapture with the woman (known as W), who has become single after a broken relationship and effectively seduces him with her feminine wiles. The account of their sexual fulfillment is cleverly told in words and body language without any physical engagement.

Thus John has a dilemma. He loves both his partners in different ways, but is indecisive and cannot choose between them. A dinner party is arranged between the three of them, and this is just as fraught as the one in the first series of Dr Foster. John promises to announce his decision over the pudding. The inevitable early awkwardness at the beginning of the dinner party is interrupted by the arrival of M’s widowed father (F), who has been secretly invited. The intricate dance between the trio becomes a convoluted quartet.

The father insists that John makes his son happy, has been gay for many years since coming out at university, and needs to stay in his established gay relationship. The woman retorts that John is the only man for her, and he admits that he has felt more liberated as a person with her and enjoyed heterosexual sex more. Asked by the others to decide who he is, John is torn asunder and cannot make up his mind. While there is a sort of resolution, you are left unsure whether he has made the right choice, or even made a final decision at all.

Mike Bartlett says that Cock is as much about love as about sex. And, language warning – the theatre is blue with four letter words for most of the evening, a 90-minute one-piece staging of the play. Relationships and communication are all-important in Cock. The problem for John and his two partners is not even gender specific. The questions are: whether to stay with his difficult and overbearing partner who does not allow him to grow up and truly find his identity, but he knows and loves; or whether he should take the risk of moving into new sexual territory, which is unfamiliar but where he may just have a chance of finding himself. This is gripping stuff, beautifully played by Luke Thallon (John), Matthew Needham, Isabella Laughland and Simon Chandler (the father); and tightly directed by Kate Hewittt (named in 2017 as one of Variety’s ’10 Brits to Watch’).

This production of Mike Bartlett’s marvelous play is certainly well worth watching, and you can see it until October 27.

www.cft.org.uk

Nick Keith

Anglo Saxons to invade Chalton for Equinox celebration

Anglo Saxon re-enactment group, Herigeas Hundas, will be celebrating the Autumnal Equinox this weekend, September 22-23, at Butser Ancient Farm in Chalton.

Visitors will be able to enjoy action-packed fighting demonstrations, along with ancient crafts and everyday camp life at the farm’s Saxon long hall, throughout the weekend.

Group leader Rich Bonner said: “We are excited to be celebrating the Autumn Equinox at Butser Ancient Farm. It is a unique experience to be able to show the public what life would have been like in 5th to 7th century Hampshire with the inspiring backdrop of a Saxon long hall.

“Our warriors are ready to show off their fighting skills to visitors and we’re looking forward to demonstrating everyday aspects of camp life, from blacksmithing to ancient crafts and skills.”

“The Hundas musicians will also be practising their story telling and warming up their ancient musical instruments ready to celebrate the change in seasons.”

Herigeas Hundas portray the early pagan Anglo Saxon period of British history and are at Butser Ancient Farm for several weekends over the year.

Butser Ancient Farm’s Creative Developer, Rachel Bingham said: “It is always brilliant having Herigeas Hundas take up residence at the farm. They put on a fantastic display bringing our Saxon Hall to life and it is wonderful that they will be celebrating a traditional autumn equinox here at Butser.”

Butser Ancient Farm offers a unique experimental archaeology site nestled into the rolling countryside of the South Downs National Park and features reconstructions of Stone Age, Iron Age, Roman Britain and the Anglo-Saxon period.

Butser Ancient Farm will soon be closing at the weekends for the winter season, so this is the last chance to see the Herigeas Hundas Saxons in action.

See www.butserancientfarm.co.uk or http://www.hampshirereenactment.com to find out more

Casino Royale night for charity in Petersfield

Petersfield-based charity FitzRoy is hosting a James Bond-inspired Casino Royale Night on Friday, September 28, at Churcher’s College Assembly Hall, in aid of supporting people with learning disabilities and autism.

The night offers plenty of exciting entertainment, including casino games, music and dancing. There will be a cocktail bar for those who prefer their martinis ‘shaken, not stirred’. An Aston Martin DB9, kindly loaned for the evening by Classic Parade Cars, will be available for photo opportunities. Attendees are encouraged to ‘dress to kill’.

Tickets are just £25 and include a glass of prosecco on arrival and hors d’oeuvres.

Jim Apted, FitzRoy Community Fundraising Manager, said: “For one night only we’re bringing James Bond to Petersfield. Come and enjoy the glitz and glamour of the casino with your friends, brush up on your Black Jack and have a spin on the roulette, while sipping on champagne and cocktails.

“We’ll have prizes for the best dressed, as well as the opportunity to take a selfie in an Aston Martin. Come as your favourite Bond character, or just dress to kill. We’re looking forward to a great night out, all in aid of improving the lives of people with learning disabilities.”

Money raised on the night will help FitzRoy to support people with learning disabilities and autism to live the life they want and have greater independence and control over their daily lives. For example, a sensory room to liberate those with complex needs from a wheelchair, an iPad for someone to communicate with loved ones for the first time or a talking microwave so someone can make themselves a meal.

FitzRoy is a national charity and runs 11 services in Hampshire supporting 147 people.

To find out more or to get tickets visit www.fitzroy.org/event/casino-royale/ or available at One Tree Books on Lavant Street and Beatons Tearooms on the High Street in Petersfield. FitzRoy will also have a stand in Rams Walk on Saturday, September 22.

Cynthia will smash it at Write Angle poetry night

Be prepared for the very highly commended poet, Cynthia Hamilton, at September’s Write Angle in Petersfield.

Cynthia is a comic performance artist who began while still at the University in Liverpool. She became the Allcomers Slam Champion at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature and went on to perform for BBC-TV, Channel 4 and Central Television.

Performance poet Cynthia Hamilton

She’s had poems published by Poetry Review and has performed with John Hegley, Stewart Lee and John Cooper Clarke – who described her as “metrically sound” – and she’s also the proud author of one of Benjamin Zephaniah’s favourite love poems. In addition she has done work for the BBC World Service and was published in The Bloomsbury Book of Love Poems, The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain and Moving Voices: Black Performance Poetry. She’s also had two plays produced by Radio 4. 

In addition to performing, Cynthia currently works in publishing where she likes to “mix things up”. She has promoted books for authors from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Frank Bruno and knows a surprising amount about the lesbian witchcraft book market…

Write Angle poetry and music cabaret is on Tuesday, September 18, at 7.30pm, at the Townhouse, 28 High Street, Petersfield.

Admission costs £6 and there will be the usual open mic spot for anyone who wants to share their work with an enthusiastic audience. 

See www.petersfieldwriteangle.co.uk

Haslemere Remembers – a festival of flowers to commemorate centenary

To add to the poignant poppy cascade on the outside of St Chrisopher’s Church, Haslemere, the inside of the church will have more than 20 floral arrangements created by local community groups from all over the area, in Haslemere Remembers – a Festival of Flowers, September 15-16, 10am-5pm.
All the arrangements, tributes and installations, inspired by World War 1 poems and songs, will include a giant poppy wreath hanging over the nave of the church and a memorial tomb naming all the men from the Haslemere area who lost their lives during the Great War.
Admission is free and all donations will be given to the Royal British Legion.

St Christopher’s Church, Haslemere

Free heritage day at Waverley Abbey House

Every year in September, thousands of hidden, historic places open their doors to the public for free during the Heritage Open Day event, to celebrate their fantastic history, architecture and culture.
This year the main theme is Extraordinary Women, so why not take this chance to explore who the women were who left their mark on Waverley Abbey House, which will be open on Saturday, September 8, 10am-4pm.
Learn about the house’s rich history, dating back to the reign of King George I, discover the remarkable role that Waverley played during the First World War, and walk in the footsteps of some famous visitors.
Free guided tours of the house will take place throughout the day and a history display will be available on the first floor (accessible by stairs only).
The café will be open for homemade light lunches, cakes and refreshments.
No booking is necessary but for any enquiries, please call 01252 784733 or email info@waverleyabbeyhouse.org.uk


https://www.waverleyabbeyhouse.org.uk/

Ribald Restoration comedy comes with pace aplenty

The Country Wife

Minerva, Chichester 

June 2018

William Wycherley was an extremely ribald playwright in Charles II’s Restoration England. Indeed his 1675 play The Country Wife, which opened at the Drury Lane Theatre (newly restored by Christopher Wren), was banned for 171 years from 1753 because it was thought to be too risqué. It was performed again in London in 1924, and the first American production was in 1931.

So it seems adventurous for Chichester of all places to revive it at the Minerva, where it runs from mid June to early July. However the prospects are tempting for the modern theatre-goer, with direction by Jonathan Munby, who directed the acclaimed King Lear with Sir Ian McKellen (which transfers to London’s West End in July).

Horner, a wicked womaniser, decides that his affairs with married women have become too well-known to husbands. So he determines to hide his pursuit of wives by faking impotence, to convince husbands that their womenfolk are safe in his hands, so to speak. So, egged on by his laddish companions, his sexual escapades continue unabated with willing wives such as Lady Fidget (Belinda Lang).

Horner is unequivocally sexist, and shows little respect for the women he seduces: “I’d advise my friends to keep [women] rather than marry,” he says. And “Tis my maxim, he’s a fool that marries; but he’s a greater that does not marry a fool.”

THE COUNTRY WIFE at CFT Photos by Manuel Harlan

His attention is caught by a pretty young country wife, Margery (Susannah Fielding) who has been brought to the big city by Pinchwife, her much older husband. Pinchwife goes to great trouble to keep his new wife out of mischief and away from the new thrills of city life, which she is eager to experience. At one point, he even dresses her up as a young man, in cap and blazer, but Horner is not fooled and makes unabashed advances to the ‘lad’.

Pinchwife’s sister Alithea (Jo Herbert) provides a counterpoint to all this naughtiness. Although engaged to Sparkish (Scott Karin), she is pursued by Harcourt (Ashley Zhangazha) who is determined to win her as his wife.

Certainly, the pace, performances and dialogue are all fast, in every sense of the word. Double dealings and double entendres abound; there is much entering and exiting the stage at speed through different doorways, and hiding people in nearby rooms and closets.

Lex Shrapnel plays the lead role Horner with the speed and energy of James Corden in One man two guv’nors, and the whole cast throw themselves into this sexual melting pot with abandon. But context is important too, and it is somewhat regrettable that the play is set in the 21st century.

Although fakery is part and parcel of today’s society, in a sense modern manners and behaviour seem more negative and introspective than the crude confidence of the 1660s and 1670s. In those days, the married women were far from MeToo; indeed they connived with and actively took part in the sexual proclivities of the men.

It might have been sensible to set the play 200 years later in the 1960s and 70s, when there was another sexual revolution; when men wore colourful clothes and frilly shirts; and when people spoke in tongues, often fuelled by drugs and alcohol. OK, that is still around today, but with much less joie de vivre and optimism. Nevertheless, it must be said that this production has a lot going for it and is great fun.

www.cft.org.uk

 Nick Keith

Poets, performers and songwriters – showcase your work in Petersfield

Write Angle poetry and music cabaret returns on April 17 to The Townhouse in Petersfield, with guest performer Cam Brown.

Cam Brown

Founder of Write Angle, Leah Cohen, said: “Cam’s first time with Write Angle was so successful, we had to ask him back – it’s his third time! He’s guaranteed to give you an evening of fun.

“Cam’s an accomplished musician who plays a mean guitar and harmonica, sings non-stop, and involves the audience – you can’t help liking the guy or laughing at the lyrics!

“Since age 16, when he sang at the ‘Epsom Folk Club’ (Paul Simon topped the bill that night), and heard the traditional comic, non-PC folk song genre along with the more contemporary music of Jake Thackray, George Melly, Paddy Roberts etc, that’s become the core of his repertoire.

“For 50 years, he’s continued strumming at pubs and folk singers’ clubs, as well as currently running a successful open mic night at The Chelsea Arts Club, London.

“His extensive repertoire of witty and funny songs is organised into themes, including social attitudes, drink, love, relationships, and more. He also includes traditional ballads and poems picked up in those early folk club days; then embellishing, rewriting and setting them to his own tunes, Cam is a very talented guitar player who loves entertaining, and it shows. He’ll have you beating your seats – if you can keep up with him – and singing along. He’s an irresistable charmer!

“As well as his amazing ability to hit the strings with fingers flying at the speed of light, he sings in a blues band called SCRAM, as well as forming an Americana trio, Blazing Saddlers, performing three-part harmony material from the fifties and sixties (think Lonnie Donegan meets the Everly Brothers), and having just completed two very successful evenings at the Claygate Music Festival, he produced iis first CD, titled Cam Brown Sings vol 1′ in 2013.”

Write Angle is at The Townhouse, High Street, Petersfield on Tuesday, April 17. Doors open at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start. There will also be an open mic spot for anyone to read, play or perform their work to a supportive audience. Admission costs £6. See www.petersfieldwriteangle.co.uk to find out more.

Saxon life, escapee kids and Stone Age painting

Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield will open seven days a week from the Easter weekend.  The farm currently has 17 lambs and six baby goats frolicking amongst the roundhouses; the kids are quite the escape artists so you never know where they’re likely to pop up.

Over the Easter weekend Anglo Saxon re-enactment group Herigeas Hundas will be greeting the spring and making the farm their home with demonstrations, traditional crafts, cooking and fighting. The group will be showing visitors what life would have been like in 5th to 7th century Hampshire with the backdrop of the farm’s Saxon Long Hall. Families can get a further taste for Saxon life by following the farm’s spring trail to find and translate Saxon runes and reveal a secret message.  

 Each day of the holidays there’s also the chance to get hands on with some DIY archaeology experiments, from making mosaics to Stone Age painting, and to learn more about the farm and archaeology with ten-minute taster talks. On Wednesdays visitors will have the chance to learn the art of felting and create something special to take home.

Visitors to Butser Ancient Farm over Easter will also get a sneak preview of the construction of this year’s giant 30ft wicker man for the farm’s Beltain festival on May 5.  The wicker man design changes every year and is only revealed on the night of the festival where it is ceremonially burned to welcome in the summer months.

See www.butserancientfarm.co.uk