Luke Devenish


19th century life has lately smiled upon Dickie Fullhand, a cocky young man with a dodgy heart, who has chanced himself the job of tutor at Throttlesnake Hall. All seems set for an upward rise until the awkward past catches up with him.

A desperate act of denial leads Dickie to a rapid unraveling as he seeks to distance himself from all that he’s done to get where he is, and all that he’s doing to stay there.

Dickie's doom, when it comes, is a tragedy — for he who is blessed with a marketable charm, and for those who are happy to pay for it.

This comedy was hatched while investigating the once wholly necessary but now somewhat redundant practice of encoding queerness in otherwise non-queer works, and was done so coupled with my ongoing interest in re-purposing old theatrical forms.

Encoding has a part to play in Cocky. The hero, Dickie, employs a language that both highlights and obfuscates meaning. His language is infectious, picked up and tossed about by those who share the stage with him; playful and amusing to some, frustrating and bewildering to others. In the end it’s discarded, when mounting crises and undeniable truths make anything other than plain talk impossible.

Who knows, perhaps 19th century audiences – the characters’ contemporaries – might have been deaf and blind to what is actually being discussed in this, an otherwise familiar theatrical scenario? 21st century audiences are unlikely to be anything but wise to it, however, which is what I’m banking on.

Cocky is inspired in story, structure, style and themes by mid-Victorian melodrama and the problem play, dealing with the woman with a past. Here, the problem and the past belong to a young man, and certain gender conventions are reversed. Women hold much of the power in Cocky, as well as the purse-strings and the right to express umbrage at moral transgressions. Men eke out lives as decorative playthings seeking fortuitous marriages, or failing that, domestic drudgery. The tone is intended to be queerly funny, made the funniest it can be if actors and director play every word with heartfelt sincerity.

If you would like to read Cocky, contact me here.