Cock theatre producer Chris Harper explains why title of play is absent from TfL adverts

Title of Mike Bartlett play doesn’t feature on the advertising materials featured on London’s transport network

Amanda Whiting
Tuesday 03 May 2022 21:55
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Theatre producer Chris Harper has spoken out about posters for the play Cock leaving out its title when advertised on TfL.

The play, which features Bridgerton star Jonathan Bailey, was written by Mike Bartlett about a gay man who starts to have feelings for a woman despite having just ended a seven-year relationship with a man.

In a recent statement, producer Harper shared that they were not permitted to use the title in the marketing throughout the transport network, and expressed disbelief over TfL’s censorship.

“We were absolutely astounded that we could not use the word ‘cock’ on the underground – it is 2022!” Harper reasoned.

He continued in a statement to Variety: “The word is perfectly acceptable and has many meanings.

“Mike Bartlett’s hilarious play, which is currently playing at the Ambassadors Theatre where the title is proudly displayed on the theatre, is a beautifully written piece which was inspired by a cockfight.”

In lieu of the play’s title, adverts for Cock feature Bailey and Egerton (who was later replaced by Joel Harper-Jackson) above the words: “A seriously hot ticket.”

Jonathan Baile, Phil Daniels, Taron Egerton and Jade Anouka in ‘Cock'

Cock is not the first play to face censorship from TfL. Adverts for Bad Jews were censored in 2015 on the grounds that it could cause “widespread or serious offence”.

At the time, Bad Jews producer Danny Moar explained the title’s context to The Evening Standard. “Half the cast are Jewish, I’m Jewish, the writer [Joshua Harmon] is Jewish and the word ‘bad’ in the title, in so far as it matters, doesn’t mean ‘evil’ — it means ‘non-observant’.”

In support of their more recent decision to disallow the word “cock” from adverts, a TfL spokesperson told Variety that it was removed on the advice of the Committee of Advertising Practice.

Cock is playing at the Ambassadors theatre, London, until 4 June. You can read The Independent’s review of Cock here.

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