Thursday, 27 April 2017

Review: Cock and Bull, Royal Festival Hall

"Hard working people, people who work hard..."

A stunning piece of provocative performance art, Cock and Bull grabs Tory political rhetoric by the pussy, slaps it on the arse, tells you to 'calm down dear' and then dares you to look away. Posited as "an alternative party conference", it was originally created as a response to the build-up to the 2015 general election but as it turns out, the empty promises of politicians are timeless and so Cock and Bull continues to be reconceived and performed, finding both new and continued resonance.

That political rhetoric is mostly hot air should come as little surprise to most, but what performers and co-creators Nic Green, Laura Bradshaw, and Rosana Cade espouse here is something more profound. Tapping into the despair so brilliantly surmised by Brenda from Bristol, echoes of Tory party slogans disintegrate into attritional word poems, focus group-friendly body language gives way to boorish Bullingdon carousing, the hollowness of contemporary political campaigning is exposed.

Through the repetition of language and movement, and the gradual removal of their (male) battle armour, the suits and lustrous body paint (all that glitters truly isn't gold), there's a sense of being worn down, or retreating behind the front door like Brenda. But where we thought we saw deterioration, what we're actually witnessing is development - an inch-by-inch move towards enlightenment, stripping as an act of liberation, a recognition that coming together doesn't necessarily have to result in a coalition of chaos (indeed, the climactic embrace reminded me of this).

And as we move towards another general election here in the UK, there's also a fascinating tension with Cock and Bull and how it sits with the current leadership. There's no end to banal 'strong and stable' sloganeering but there's also the reality of the first, and only, two female leaders of the country coming from the very party being excoriated here. It's just another layer to consider in a powerfully evocative piece of theatre that reminds us exactly how much of politics is pure performance.

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 30th April

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