entertainment

Cock producer 'astounded' at Transport for London censoring posters

Chris Harper said the censoring was outdated.

2022-05-04

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Matt Crockett

The producer of the Jonathan Bailey helmed play Cock has said he was "astounded" to find the play's title had been censored by Transport for London (TfL)

Posters for the play, which initially featured Rocketman’s Taron Egerton and later Joel-Harper Jackson opposite the Bridgerton star have appeared on the Tube but with the show’s title censored.

The underground posters for Cock see the review quote “A Seriously Hot Ticket!” emboldened in lieu of the play's name.

“We were absolutely astounded"

Cock’s producer Chris Harper told Variety on Tuesday (3 May): “We were absolutely astounded that we could not use the word ‘Cock’ on the underground – it is 2022!” 

Harper continued, pointing out the semantics of the show’s title: “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 a statement to Variety, a TFL spokesperson said: “All advertising running on across the [TfL] estate needs to comply with both our own advertising policy and the Advertising Standards Authority’s codes and rulings.”

“Following advice from the Committee of Advertising Practice, the campaign was amended to ensure it was compliant,” they continued. 

It seems Cock’s title was completely removed based on a pre-vetting decision in line with TfL’s advertising policy that states an advertisement is deemed unacceptable if “it could reasonably be seen as distasteful, indecent or obscene, in its use of imagery, language or otherwise.”

 
 
 
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As outlined in The Advertising Standards Authority’s “Harm and Offense” guidelines, advertisements must not contain “anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence,” and that compliance is judged “on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.

Directed by Marianne Elliott, Cock centres on John (Bailey) and his boyfriend, M (Harper-Jackson) negotiating their relationship when one begins a relationship with a woman 'W' (Jade Anouka).

Writer Mike Bartlet’s play was first on stage in 2009 with Fleabag's Andrew Scott and This Is Going To Hurt's Ben Whishaw as John and M. 

Cock is at London's Ambassadors Theatre until Saturday 4 June 2022. For tickets click here.