Sophie Ross, Tom Conroy and Angus Grant in 'Cock'

Cock rehearsal blog | The set workshop

Behind the Scenes /

It’s not every day you walk into one of the MTC rehearsal rooms and see three cast members pillow fighting while another builds a pillow fort in the corner, but this was exactly the sight greeting guests of the Cock set workshop.

‘Today is not about the play but about the materials to create the play,’ explains director Leticia Cáceres. ‘I’d like you to jump in and see what images come up. I want us to be surprised by what can happen … start gently.’

Starting gently is perhaps a wise instruction. Within the tape markings of the Fairfax Studio’s rounded stage, Marg Horwell’s set currently comprises a giant pile made up of 250 European pillows.

The 'Cock' pillow workshop

The cast begin with improvised movements, exploring the possibilities that a room full of pillows creates. Simply by sitting, standing and lying, cast members begin to generate relationships, tableau and architectural shapes that resonate powerfully with the themes and issues raised in the play.

The way the actors relate to the pillows is extremely revealing – almost metaphoric. En masse, the pillows are difficult to negotiate; throwing the actors off balance, engulfing them, slowing them down like they’re caught in quicksand. But when used individually, they become graceful and light, allowing the actors to retain integrity. The artistic team is attentive throughout this process – watching the actors working with and within the set is mesmerising.

As the workshop progresses, the activities range from serious to frivolous, sombre to silly, but the discussion is always focused: ‘How is this serving the play?’ When the cast finally emerge from the set, they are puffing. No one anticipated how physically demanding the set would be.

After a quick discussion about the team’s initial responses to the set, the workshopping continues with an emphasis on extremes. The cast fill the space with pillows, then empty it completely. They work with one pillow, then all 250 of them. They stack them against a wall, block the only entrance, cover the floor in a single layer, bury each other, then create the tallest pyramid they can.

The 'Cock' pillow workshop

The process of construction itself becomes the focus. Pete Goodwin (THE SWEATS) and Missy Higgins put on some music to infuse the workshop’s mood. ‘Resist the urge to dance. The music is just like another actor on stage,’ Leticia clarifies.

With the new element of music, the dynamics of the space shifts again. Questions about mood, tempo and rhythm arise, as the actors continue to respond spontaneously to what’s asked of them by the artistic team.

Finally they sit together and discuss their findings, deciding on five major focal points.

1. Less is more.
2. Constructing architectural shapes is good to watch, especially when supported by music.
3. The pillows must always be pillows, not substitutes for real objects.
4. Furthermore, the space must always remain in the abstract – it doesn’t need to construct a literal domestic space.
5. Pillows will not behave as they are told and the team must always embrace this.

From here, the blocking begins.

Want to hear more from the rehearsal room? You can check out our previous Cock rehearsal blog, get updates on Facebook or Twitter (with the hashtag #mtcCock) or learn more about the production on our website.

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