Cock Cock... Who’s There? | Adelaide Festival

Cock Cock... Who’s There? | Adelaide FestivalLeft – Samira Elagoz. Photo – Nellie de Boer

Cock Cock..Who’s There? is a documentary show, devised and acted by Finnish-Egyptian filmmaker Samira Elagoz, in which she confronts her own experiences of rape. She doesn’t use actors or performers, is alone on the stage, and behind her are projected film sequences from her own hand-held camera. As a result – in a way like Waad Al-Kateab’s wonderful film For Sama, shot from within Aleppo during its destruction by the Syrian regime and the Russians – it presents exclusively her own view. The audience is drawn inside her own experience by this technique. There are no two sides to this argument, because there is no argument at all – this is what it was like.

I hesitated, being a man, whether to write this review at all; whether only a woman could be even allowed to do so (forgetting in that moment that men, and boys, are also raped). But in conversation with friends, I realised that of course it is, above all, men who need to be confronted with this – the inner experience of rape of which they are practically always the perpetrators. And since her show turns the gaze from male-of-women to female-of-men, there is at the very least nothing incongruent about a man’s point of view.

She fronts up to her experience, and what she reveals about herself, in the course of fronting up to it, may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Elagoz’s project in this piece is to recover her own sexuality after it has sustained the traumatic damage of rape. This she does by becoming the subject, rather than the object, in her investigation into men – by being the woman gazing, rather than the woman being gazed at. So she interviews a series of men, men ranging from the charming to the utterly loathsome, in an attempt to see at least a little distance behind what it is that makes men sometimes so predatory, or simply behind their penis (Cock cock…who’s there?). In the course of this exploration she is raped once more, reports it to the police (in Japan), goes through the ordeal – familiar to all rape victims who report – of re-living every detail (every detail – what a cliché, but just think about it!) and hoping that the prison guards rape the perpetrator when he is convicted.

For me some of the most telling sequences were in the earlier part of the film sequences, where she tells her friends and her family about her experience. A male friend seemed sympathetic if unhelpful, and there lurked behind his response the question, “did you bring this upon yourself?” Her father was in his cloud-cuckoo land of Arabic poetry; her mother, who is exactly like the only other middle-aged Finn that I know, just didn’t want to know. Then in a later sequence you discover that her mother’s mother was also raped…

The most powerful message that I took from the performance was to do with that question, “did she bring it upon herself?” Elagoz presents herself, pre-rape, as a young woman highly sexualised by society, and deeply complicit in this. But the message was that no matter how sexually interested a rape victim may be perceived to be, the act of rape is always an unspeakably violent and destructive invasion of a person, and should be judged as such, independently from its antecedents. There are no mitigating circumstances. Ever.

This message seemed to be highlighted by the extreme contrast in volume between Elagoz’s words in the theatre, sensitively modulated so that she could be heard clearly, and the volume of most of the film sequences, so loud as frequently to be above the threshold of pain. The contrast was so extreme that the deafening sound from the film sequences became a metaphor for the extreme violence of rape.

Elagoz has won several prizes for her documentary films and this show, which is half film and half solo theatre. Her last words, before the repulsive but compelling final sequence of the film, are “I have got it all out of my system. Well, almost all.” But I was left feeling that this work is by no means finished, and that in a few years she will produce something really wonderful.

2020 Adelaide Festival
Cock Cock... Who’s There?
by Samira Elagoz

Venue: Main Theatre, AC Arts | 39 Light Square, Adelaide SA
Dates: 28 Feb – 3 March 2020
Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au

 

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