Clowning, dance and a dash of danger in Cockfight

Laban Theatre, London
October 3, 2017

Maggie Foyer

I have a motto on my desk, ‘Age and treachery will triumph over youth and skill’. This could also be the motto of Gavin Webber, at 55 the age-challenged half of the two-man team, complemented by young Joshua Thomson, 34. The eternal battle of the young fighting to oust the old guard is at the core of this multi-layered and highly entertaining dance theatre show, together with themes of masculine identity, office hierarchies and, as a by-product, bird migration. The slapstick clowning is built on teamwork of extreme skill and dexterity spiced with danger to make a lethal and exciting mix.

These two dancers have worked together for a number of years and this is evident in their mutual trust and complete somatic awareness unfazed by the physical danger of flying bodies and furniture. A warning, best not to sit in the front row. The creative team includes Luke Smiles, a former dancer, who is responsible for the effective sound score and some of the most brilliant timing as he cues the sound and choreography co-ordinates.

CockfightPhoto Darcy Grant
Photo Darcy Grant

The setting is a rather bland, slightly retro office but who would have guessed the comedic potential of a filing cabinet, a radio or a telephone? Gavin and Josh (they use their own names throughout), recognise the toy in everything and commandeer them into service in a protracted game of one-upmanship.

The switch from (almost) naturalistic office behaviour to a slow-motion fantasy of dance duets cum wrestling happens in the blink of an eye. The dance interludes, especially from Josh, are formidable as he circumnavigates chairs, flies over the table and rolls across the floor with Gavin playing catch up in the slipstream.

The masculine rivalry turns feral as upturned chair legs replicate horns and the two men clash like rutting stags, exposing antediluvian hominid underbellies beneath the suits and ties. Eventually the sparing stops and the two exhausted men sit side by side, seeming to have come to a mutual understanding amidst the chaos of the wrecked office. They reach over to adjust each other’s neckties but somehow manage to knot themselves together. The show climaxes in a final battle that enters the red danger zone with bodies linked together at the neck slither wildly across the stage before they finally manage to cut themselves free.

The 80-minute programme is an exhilarating joyride of zany humour and totally unexpected laughs and is not to be missed.

Cockfight continues on tour to October 27. Visit for details.