Cosi is a play set in the 1970s, when Australia and the world were facing political complexities, such as the conflict against the communist government and the happenning of the Vietnam War. It was a time when people had to choose their loyalties, causing great frustration and tearing the community apart. We are able to see this in Cosi in the lives of two best mates Nick and Lewis, as their priorities and commitments during that period of time, as well as conflicting social views with the rise of different social conventions such as ‘free love’ during the 1970s.
It is a play within a play with parallel runnings with Mozart’s opera ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’, both plays explore the meanings of love and fidelity and how Lucy parallels the infidelity of the women in ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’. Nowra also allows us to see how the theatre works its magic, as a therapy not only for the insane but as well as the sane. As we slowly see the cast blossoming towards the end of the play, Lewis ends it by announcing some fateful happenings of the cast such as the deaths of Julie and Henry, giving an unfairytale like ending to the play.
However not all had the same fate, we see how Ruth’s obsessive compulsive disorder allowed her to become a “time and motion expert” and Zac’s eccentricity making him a “rock and roll” player. ‘Cosi fan Tutte’ main theme is about a woman’s infidelity towards man. Despite the opera being set in the 1700s and facing problems with love and fidelity, it proves that society still hasn’t changed in that perspective with the characters in Cosi mirroring some of it’s values. The ‘free love’ movement during the 1970s also shows how society is becoming much more liberal in character and less conservative.
The influence also caused a seperation between the community as some still stick to their conservative views such as Lewis, Nick and Lucy. Lucy redefined the modern meaning of fidelity by claiming she “only had sex with Nick, but slept with Lewis. ” Lewis himself also holds his very bias view on fidelity, despite his obvious attraction towards Julie, he still claims his fidelity by “not having sex” with Julie even though he kissed her. This shows the society’s gradual evolvement by beginning to define it’s meaning of fidelity with the
references to sex only. Nowra allows us to observe the discrimination and social defining ways of the people by beginning the play in a “burnt out theatre”, displaying the neglect shown towards the mental patients and the seperation it had formed between the sane and insane people. “They are just people who have done extraordinary things, thought extraordinary thoughts. ” Nowra shows the fine line drawn between the sane and insane, and that those in the institution are not always as what the society defines them.
The act of isolating mental patients shows the people’s way of dealing with kinks in the society, an easy solution. Julie for instance, is completely sane however has an addiction to drugs, “They don’t know how to deal with drug users” shows how the people had either the lack of knowledge or wasn’t eager enough to dwell into and solve the problem. Instead, Julie was prescribed more drugs for her habit, which did not break and caused her death in the future with an overdose.
Zac also displays the extremities of drug consumption, causing him to have no control over himself and later not being able to appear in the opera. Such as ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’s’ use of Mesmer magnets and Cosi’s use of shock treatment for magnets showed the society’s inefficient way of dealing with problems. Through Cosi, whether insane of sane, the cast blossomed as they progressed on into the play and just like Justin’s main aim “to bring them out of their shells”, Lewis suceeded.
Not only with them but from a shy and confused young man, Lewis came out with a stronger sense of leadership and confidence. He was more certain on what he wanted compared to earlier where he allowed Roy to grab his glory. Lewis broke up with Lucy and learned to console Roy before the opera showing a huge improvement from his character before, he “proved Roy wrong”. The cast showed lots of gratitude towards him in the end of the play even with Henry stuttering a “Tttthank you”, who before this could only communicate with the form of “shaking his head”.
Despite his improvement in speech and confidence, Nowra made his fate a sad one showing the unrealistic ‘fairytale endings’, along with Julie’s overdose despite being discharged. Roy had showed no improvement with his continuous enthusiasm over the wards where “his fellow patients took petitions to get rid of him”. But with Ruth and Zac’s improved careers, Nowra shows that there are still hopes in ‘fairytale endings’.