Cosi by Louis Nowra
Cosi directed by David Fenton with music direction by Donald Hall was enthusiastically received by the critics – “It deserves to be a smash hit”, wrote Alison Cotes in the Brisbane Review (28 July 1994). And it was, with the season extended by two weeks.
Des Partridge in The Courier Mail (23 July 1994) wrote:“La Boite, riding high artistically this year, should draw new patrons with the quality of this laugh-making production”. Many audience members will remember this La Boite hit as a hilarious night at the theatre thanks to the superb ensemble work of Brisbane actors Andrew Buchanan, Rebecca Riggs, Paul Bishop, Kevin Hides, Martin Odger, Lewis Jones, Karen Crone and Gael Ballantyne. The next article is Veronica Kelly's review of this outstanding production
Writer: Dr Christine Comans
Cosi by Louis Nowra
Review by Veronica Kelly
Louis Nowra's warm homage to theatre and its peculiar madnesses seems to be sweeping all before it this year, and La Boite's hilarious production justifies the considerable appeal of Cosi, which follows the gestation and performance of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte by inmates of a 1970s Melbourne asylum.
Rehearsal plays are generally irresistible, affording audiences an opportunity to glimpse the arcane backstage mechanics of performance and for accomplished actors to impersonate earnest amateurs. It's an up-beat and inherently theatrical genre where temperaments clash, disasters accumulate, artistic problems are bizarrely solved, talent shyly emerges, and the eventual show brings delight and empowerment to all.
David Fenton's crisp production is lucid in broad structure with abundant comic nuances. A tattily splendid half-burned proscenium bridges the space, alluding perhaps to La Boite's recent fire and celebrating the theatre's own resilience. Andrew Raymond's design gets the minute period details right. Those in the know can spot a jibe at Peter Brook's white-box plus feather Midsummer Night’s Dream set, which the over-medicated Zac triumphantly invents to universal distain.
The script – much more streamlined and focused than at its 1992 Belvoir premiere – showcases the cast in what are probably dream roles. Andrew Buchanan as Lewis, a bemused but tenacious Candide, deftly creates incisive comedy as the still centre of the rampant asylum world. Kevin Hides's irrepressible Roy embodies the monomania of the terminally stagestruck in a flamboyantly comic impersonation: Cyrano off his lithium.
In a beautifully judged performance, Karen Crone balances the lusty Cherry's proletarian belligerence, her hormonal itch for Lewis and an innate solid intelligence. Paul Bishop's Doug, the gleeful pyromaniac, is a forceful foil to his dual role as Nick, the condescending student radical who can't recognise human potential when he's surrounded by it.
Inmates of a more withdrawn disposition balance out this gallery of manics. Gael Ballantyne's obsessive Ruth blossoms as she learns to release her fears in the make-believe madness of theatre. Rebecca Riggs's Julie is an attractive and perfectly sane addict. Lewis Jones relishes his outburst as the repressed Henry while Martin Odger, as a quirkily talented Zac and as a safari suited social worker, gets to be both manic and depressed.
The Australian 29 July 1994