Review by Emma Whitelaw
WHEN life poses one of its many challenges, it pays to be a little
insane. Lewis Nowra’s playful comedy Cosi,
now playing at the Bridewell Theatre is a classic
case of life imitating art imitating insanity.
Based in the 70s, during the Vietnam War, we find an eclectic
mix of would-be thespians in a burned out theatre somewhere deep
in the heart of Melbourne, Australia.
Actors are always seen to be slightly eccentric, but these aren’t
your normal fame-crazed wannabes. There’s a pyromaniac,
a junkie, a knife-wielding romantic, a confused realist, a lithium-addicted
pianist who hates Mozart and a stuttering ex-lawyer who refuses
to take part in the production.
But like any aspiring young actors they all have their hearts
in the right place; as long as they have their medication, that
Gareth Howells plays Lewis, the enthusiastically naïve director
of this troop of mental patients. Fresh from university, Lewis
has no idea what he is in for when he meets with social-worker,
Justin, played by Steven Anstee.
Justin tells Lewis that the plan is to bring the patients out
of their shells through the therapy of theatre. Lewis supposedly
can do whatever he pleases, which is all good and well until he
meets ringleader and opera buff, Roy.
Gareth Richardson is fantastic as
the effervescent Roy. His enthusiasm borders on tyranny, yet it
is his very passion that brings both the cast and the play to
life – against all odds.
It is Roy’s dream to do Mozart’s classic, Cosi
fan Tutte, a musical of love, fidelity and mistaken identity.
Despite Lewis’ objections that a play by Bertolt Brecht
would be far easier, the cast decide upon Mozart.
The events that follow are riotous. The more we learn of each
character, the more we grow to love their insanity.
Michael King is superb as the cat-burning Doug, having been
released from the confinement of Ward C, Doug wreaks havoc upon
the production, setting fire to the theatre on more than one occasion.
Rob Carroll plays Zac, the pianist, who takes one too many pills
and passes out before the curtain even goes up.
And Andrew Beynon plays Henry, the failed lawyer, who apparently
doesn’t speak yet does the unthinkable and mentions Macbeth!
Despite these setbacks, and in the face of adversity, the cast
somehow triumph and the show is a tremendous success by all accounts.
The experience does wonders for all involved and their lives
will never be the same again.
Everyone loves a tale about an underdog and Cosi is
most certainly no exception!
Cosi by Lewis Nowra and directed by Andrew Miller. Starring
Amber Moelter, Gareth Howells, Philip Leamon, Gareth Richardson,
Steven Anstee, Michael King, Andrew Beynon, Natasha Magigi, Alex
McTavish, Fiona Putnam and Rob Carroll. October 5 - 30 at The
Bridewell Theatre, Bride Lane (off Fleet Street) London EC4. Box
Office 020 7936 3456.