Andy Arnold gets his Cock out

Preview of Mark Bartlett's play at the Tron: a very modern ménage-a-trois

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Andy Arnold gets his Cock out

Before his arrival at the Tron, Andy Arnold had guided The Arches from difficult beginnings in the aftermath of Glasgow's 1990 City of Culture to an established venue for both clubbing and alternative theatre. As artistic director of the Tron, he has developed his vision of theatre as both a forum for political discussion and experimental artistry. Within this, he has a very clear understanding of his own approach and enthusiasm.

'I have always said in any mission statement for the Tron that the core of our work is the spoken word,' he says. 'Text is the essential currency of theatre. For me, I have to start with the script – whether a new play, a Chekhov, a poem, or a Heiner Muller two hour visual epic with only one page of dialogue… it’s still the script.'

His production of Mike Bartlett's controversial play Cock follows this logic. Having demonstrated his mastery of Samuel Beckett's absurdism in his recent Happy Days, he turns to a more recent script.

'Ever since Cock opened at the Royal Court in London six years ago I have been trying to acquire the rights,' he explains. 'I’m delighted that Mike Bartlett has now given Tron Theatre the go ahead – I finally wore him down.' And despite the challenging title, Cock is less a brutalist sexual drama than an updating of the satirical comedy of manners, focussing on a bisexual man's inability to decide between his male and female lovers. 'It’s a brilliant play about relationships, sexual identity and confusion and has an eye-catching title – which always helps,' Arnold continues.

Arnold sees a continuity between Bartlett and Beckett: 'except that the characters in Cock won’t be buried up to their necks in mud or have their heads protruding out of Greek urns, the principle is the same though.' Since the script insists on no props or set, concentrating on the words, it taps into Arnold's vision of theatre as a medium driven by language.

'The dialogue is so sharp and witty and the narrative is very clever,' adds Arnold. With a cast that includes Johnny McKnight – perhaps best known for his bold and intelligent updating of pantomime but a playwright himself with a track record for sardonic and witty dialogue – Arnold is excited by the process: 'given the fact that the play contains action – cooking, eating, having sex, and so on, it will indeed present challenges – but ones which we’ll enjoy resolving in the rehearsal room!'

As the first production of Cock since its début at the Royal Court, Arnold's production is a coup for the Tron and an example of the venue's commitment to contemporary writing. For Arnold, however, it is not just about the time spent in the auditorium. 'The best plays are ones where you leave the theatre wondering what might happen next,' he concludes. 'Cock is that play.'

Cock

A bisexual man is confused about what he wants when he falls for both a man and a woman.

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