Review: COCK COCK… WHO’S THERE? at Main Theatre, Adelaide College of the Arts

Review By Lisa Lanzi


One of the joys of Festival time is that sometimes you really don’t know what to expect, even after digesting the blurb. This production, Cock Cock Who’s There by Finnish/Egyptian filmmaker Samira Elagoz, sits firmly in this category. I knew a rape experience was part of the narrative and a number of friends and colleagues had announced they were unsure about going, based solely on the subject matter. I am very glad I attended but am still mulling over the content, the impact and the reasoning behind the artist’s exploration. I do think it opens up a huge and important discussion and will be keen for conversations with others who go.


Bare stage with black tarkett, one chair, a bottle of water and white screen as the upstage wall. Elagoz enters in fashionably ripped jeans, t-shirt and sneakers after we view on screen a series of poetic, lines about a fierce, imagined female character then a short video with distorted images of a female body and suggestive of female vulva anatomy. The artist speaks candidly and calmly, clinically even, and informs us about when she became hyper-aware of the male gaze as a young teen. Large, projected images of Elagoz from that time follow these statements - Images we might see on any millennial’s Instagram feed featuring heavy make-up, lipstick pouts and revealing clothing. Instantly, the audience shifts in their seats and judgemental thoughts erupt. We are immediately challenged by Elagoz’s intelligent appraisal of female power and the permission for women to represent themselves in any way they choose, regardless of male judgement or expectations. And I completely agree. Even though I feel uncomfortable with revealing images young women seem to relish, I fully support their option to choose that path. There is much more to be discussed around this subject but there is not the room here.


Soon the monologue moves on to explain, again clinically, that Elagoz was raped by her boyfriend and that Cock Cock… Who’s There? was a result of her attempting to analyse her feelings upon her one year ‘rape anniversary’. There follows a series of filmed fragments, cinéma vérité-style, featuring female and male friends, her mother and grandmother all expressing their opinion of the assault and how it makes them feel. Indeed, there is a point where Elagoz tells how it often fell to her to console or re-assure people after telling them of her experience. This is something that will resonate with many women who find themselves surviving some kind of trauma yet then having to look after friends and family because it upsets them so much to hear the tale.


As Elagoz pondered ways to analyse, comprehend and define what happened to her but retain a sense of control the idea for this show evolved and the various stages/experiments began. It was also important for her to set limits so that she would feel safe. Using web-based meet-up sites she interviewed men via computer and documented the encounters. She later placed a Craigslist ad that invited men to apply to be part of her film, with strict instructions as to how the encounter would be set up. Elagoz, employing her stay-safe protocols, would arrange to go to these men’s homes to interview them using her film-making skills. Yet again, it was easy to recognize the judgment welling up in the theatre, and to be honest, in myself. This pursuit screamed danger but for Elagoz it was empowering and healing to be the one in control. This part of the filming did reveal some hideous characters, narcissists, sociopaths and the like who were exactly the type of males to seek domination over women, for their own pleasure.


The experiment took Elagoz across the world as she built up footage for her project and exhibited her work, still meeting up with various men. It was in Tokyo that she was once again sexually assaulted and a scene ‘replayed’ the mortifying interaction with police using two Japanese actors and a life-size effigy/doll which she was required to position to show the sequence of events. Further film showed Elagoz the day following this ordeal and a reflection on what might be the ‘rules’ for acting or feeling after rape - who decides, who judges what is true or not, what would be a ‘good’ process for scrutinising the details. Around this time Elagoz became aware of the sexualized work of photographer Richard Kern who openly stated that he slept with every one of his models. Kern had a deep interest in the aesthetics of extreme sex, violence and perversion and was involved in the Cinema of Transgression movement. Was he or his work judged harshly? Were remonstrations rained down upon him for taking a radical stance with his art?


Samira Elagoz’s Cock Cock… Who’s There? is layered, confronting and has a number of disturbing images that assault the viewer but also challenge us to look within at how we judge women, cast opinions on their choices, condone or negate the actions of men and what constitutes art. Her clinical presentation will offend some but I find it more palatable on stage, in this context, than histrionics and rage. Although the work has in part stemmed from rage and hurt and trying to find a way through I found my feelings were stirred more shockingly by her (seemingly) emotionless, detailed recounting. The work will stay with me for a long time.


Image Supplied


All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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