Printable CopyCOCK, COCK… WHO’S THERE?
The Adelaide Festival
Adelaide College of the ARTS
Until 03 Mar 2020

Review by John Wells

Rape is a clandestine crime. Rape is not like an armed robbery, for example, committed with sawn-off shotgun in the fluorescent gloom of a late-night servo, or a bloody stabbing in a beer-soaked bar. Rape is not public. Rape is committed in unseen places, in rooms with closed and locked doors, usually by lovers, relatives, trusted people. The inherent hidden nature of rape means its truths and nuances are largely unknown and unconsidered.

Samira Elagoz was raped by her then-boyfriend. “Cock, Cock… Who’s There” is her uncomfortable and provocative response. Her boyfriend referred to the rape as a “force-fuck”, a linguistic sleight-of-hand that re-framed the crime as simply a rough sexual encounter. Elagoz’s approach is to re-frame her experience by exploring not the crime itself, but the different layers of masculinity that women must navigate. She interviews her family and close friends a year after the rape, and then begins meeting strangers on-line, filming these unnerving and odd encounters with men. These videoed scenes are unsettling: the men are ordinary, pathetic, charming, funny and potentially dangerous.

Elagoz embraces the complexity of rape and the difficulties in making firm conclusions about rape victims. Her constantly shifting perspective is fascinating and muscular in its sense of fearless provocation. Elagoz stridently challenges our assumptions about rape victims: she is sensuous, confrontational, reckless and full of apparent conflicts. She is unashamed and bold. There is no wounded helplessness here.

“Cock, Cock… Who’s There” is a carefully contrived and controlled piece. The greatest success of this production is the adroit way Elagoz cleverly flips our assumptions and prejudices. It is smart and brilliant manipulation, up-ending what we believe. But the precisely curated approach means we connect with Elogoz’s construction of herself; there is a distance and coolness at the heart of this work which means it is difficult to engage emotionally. There are only a few brief moments of raw feeling: it is particularly affecting when we see a video-clip of Elagoz crying in her mother’s arms. The stage-craft, too, works against emotional connection: long stretches of filmed material in a stage production becomes repetitive.

Elagoz offers no easy answers or conclusions. This intelligent and challenging work leaves us with a discomfiting sense of ambiguity and unease.