The Cock Factory

Sat 3rd – Fri 9th August 2013

reviews

Georgina Wilson

at 01:22 on 9th Aug 2013

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Through a darkened door in the side of a wall, up some twisty stairs and we arrive in a claustrophobically warm room with a wooden floor…. to the sound of clucking hens. I’m being reminded of something. Ah yes, a chicken barn. That would be because this show is all about the moral traumas of battery hen farming (no it’s not funny, the title is not supposed to be “banter”, so let’s get the inevitable sniggering over and done with before buckling down to business).

Whatever else I thought of 'The Cock Factory', it was certainly dealing with a tricky, graphic business, which is why the odd attempts at wry humour (a sneeze to break the silence, or what I think was a strange fleeting moment of flirtation hinted at by the seductive slidings of shopping trolleys across the floorboards) came across as glaringly inappropriate. Despite these weaker moments, the majority of the play was well though out and innovative, particularly with regards to those trusty trolleys and the creation of horrific, metal constructions on stage which existed to contain and trundle around various combinations of a surprisingly acrobatic cast.

Most of “The Cock Factory” is mime – actually I was pretty convinced that the whole show would be non-verbal given the rehearsal time clearly put into an impressive mime-in-canon sequence at the start. Add to this the stunning use of metal cages and the beautiful balletic movement of Natalie Robbie even as she miraculously slides herself through a symbolic food-packing machine (those trolleys once again) and the show would do quite well without any talking whatsoever.

In fact there is speech, speech which, coming so late on in the forty minute production, took me by surprise. The first lines go to Harry Warren, who plays a kind of overseer doctor figure performing medical and aesthetic checks in wearing a delightfully bizarre pair of marigolds: “eyes? Beak? Feathers?”. All malfunctioning, in various ways, and to prove it the chicken/woman is manically prodded and poked and squeezed in an accelerating sequence of abuse that begins, at last, to have a wider frame of reference of power and domination beyond the limited, though important, chicken/human relationship.

‘Human’ clothes back on, the stage littered with sawdust and feathers and the cast claw their way to the front for a bow. Understandably, there’s a glazed look in their eyes: 'The Cock Factory' is a compelling, gruelling evening for players and audience alike. And you may not be cooking roast chicken for a while.

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Flo Layer

at 10:12 on 9th Aug 2013

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Despite the cheekily suggestive name, Goldsmith's Drama Society‘s show ‘The Cock factory’ was a production with profound intentions. Don’t let your dirty mind run away with misleading expectations, as this physical theatre piece offers an interesting exploration of the mysterious and harrowing production of battery chickens; one unassuming innocent woman is forced to experience the life of a poor chicken with disturbing effect. The circle of battery chicken life is comprehensively completed in forty intense minutes, from caged existence to a pre-packaged destiny on the supermarket floor, leaving the audience exposed to an original, disturbingly human, portrayal of the harsh reality of manufacturing, previously hidden behind the curtains. What else did you expect?

Any comic expectations are flung out the window as you walk into the compact venue and are immediately thrown into the clinical, industrial atmosphere of production with a basic, crude set and the chaotic clucking of factory chickens playing overwhelmingly in the background. If at first the silent mime of the actors in an imagined supermarket setting is confusing and somewhat vague, the well-rehearsed synchronised moves of the robotic, vacant shoppers offers at least a level of visual fascination, setting the pace for the later impressive physical scenes, while also providing the first of many implicit cynical comments on the modern day mindless consumer.

The use of sound cannot be undervalued in such a physical performance as this. We are whisked away from the hustling cacophony of the supermarket and are returned to the creepy clucking of the factory as our human chicken, agonisingly portrayed by Natalie Robbie, is dramatically caged in the very shopping trolleys that predict her tragic supermarket, clingfilm-wrapped demise. Could this be yet another cynical comment on the dangers of unconcerned consumerism?

The picture is completed as four more unbelievably well portrayed ‘chickens’ are squeezed into the cage, which is at once obviously cruel yet oddly, and perhaps unintentionally, weirdly humorous; afterall, it’s not often that you sit and observe four fully grown adults uncannily act as unassuming chickens. The disturbing versus comic battle continues as Harry Warren portrays the eerie farmer and sadistic clinical factory manager wearing his rubbery marigolds with an extravagance that verges on caricature; a sort of Clockwork Orange meets Mr Bean experience. Robbie, nevertheless wraps the show up with a stunningly controlled and beautiful solo routine.

Although this production occasionally swings precariously between the comic and the deeply-disturbing, ‘The Cock Factory’ is an intriguing and unique piece of well-rehearsed and well-thought-out physical theatre which will no doubt make you regard chickens in a whole new light.

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