Lewis Nowra’s semi autobiographical play ‘Cosi’ is a touching yet biting portrayal of human relationships in a Melbourne mental institute, where the patients are astracised by society. Throughout the play Lewis Nowra illustrates each and every character that suffers with a mental illness as normal people with a desire to do or think things different to others from the society of the 1970s. Throughout the play Nowra poses a question, can anybody be classified as insane?
When there is insanity all around us. The play they are to perform ‘Cosi fan Tutte’ is a play about love and fidelity which becomes a topic of disagreement of the cast. Act 1 Scene 3 addresses love and fidelity & Confusion with reality & illusion With Nowra’s intelligent use of dramatic techniques such as Characterization, Dialogue & Symbolism to present his central ideas within ‘Cosi’. ‘Cosi’ is a dramatic play written by Lewis Nowra, which is set in the early 1970s in the midst of the Vietnam War.
The inmates in the asylum are to performance of Mozart’s opera ‘Cosi fan Tutte’ as a therapeutic technique to the patients and is directed by an insecure university graduate Lewis, who brings the patients together and becomes as involved into the play as every other member of the cast and gets labelled as ‘one of them’ by society outside the asylum. In act 1 scene 3 moments after the toilets in the theatre have been a result of Doug’s pyromaniac problem.
The cast re assemble and continue on with the play, during the play Ruth is confused between reality & illusion and the number of steps she needs to take in each scene “I was wondering where you wanted me to walk and how many steps? ” Nowra canvases Ruth’s confusion between reality and illusion through to the audience with the use of characterization, amplifying Ruth’s obsessive disorder through to us the audience in a way where we get a sense of understanding on the obsessive-ness in Ruth’s character and her disorder. The theme of love and fidelity demonstrates individual’s ideas throughout the play ‘Cosi’.
Notably we see Nowra canvas the idea of love & fidelity through dramatic techniques within each characters dialogue & characterization such as Lewis, Lucy, Julie, Nick & Roy. Lewis’s changing attitude towards love throughout the play becomes a pivotal turning point for Lewis & Lucy’s relationship. As time goes on we definitely see Lewis becoming more compassionate and warm and Lucy showing her true colours towards their relationship. Lucy without a doubt becomes somewhat shallow and expresses that she sees love as out dated and unimportant in modern day society.
Julie questions Lewis on his relationship with Lucy “You two are into free love? ” “Does she play around? ” “You trust her? ”, Julie thinks against love & fidelity and thinks men are useless referring to her knowledge learnt from studying Mozart’s ‘Cosi fan Tutte’. Lewis’s thoughts of love and fidelity are antithetical of his actions with Julie later in the play, to have love we must trust. Throughout Act 1 scene 3 in ‘Cosi’ Lewis Nowra canvases symbols within many factors. A large factor produced as a symbol through the whole play is the burnt out theatre which they rehearse in.
This theatre is a symbol of them escaping the reality in which the patients & Lewis are as equal to each other. Society outside the asylum portrays Lewis as ‘insane’ for working with ‘mad people’. The burnt texture of the theatre is also a symbol for the patient’s reality as being excluded from reality as being excluded from reality outside the asylum “Cosi allows you a chance to do something successful at least once in your dismal life” Roy ironically says to Henry whose life if not much different to his own, but society still labels them as ‘insane’.
The coffee mugs in which Ruth and Julie are to use as props in the play is a symbolic technique Nowra applied, “I can live with illusion as long as I know its illusion, but this coffee is not real, is it? ” Ruth’s confusion and reality is illustrated within the coffee as being coffee cups with no coffee is also a metaphor for the patients in the mental asylum, “An illusion of reality”.
Lewis Nowra not only wrote a play containing aspects such as love & fidelity & illusion vs. eality but through the use of dramatic techniques like characterization, dialogue & symbolism throughout characters such as Lewis, Julie, Roy, Lucy & Nick in act 1 scene 3 and the rest of the play, but to give the audience a broader understanding on the plays meaning, but we also question although the play was set in the 70s, this era was experimental with ‘free love’ the reality is without fidelity, love is anything but a meaning. We still hold old fashioned values about love.
The aspect the audience gain from another message from Nowra’s ideas expressed throughout the text & dramatic techniques is the frequently noticeable question, are the people in the asylum really mad? When there is insanity all around us. Society labels these people as ‘insane’ when they are no different to each and every one of us, only with different desires to some. The only people who should be classified “insane” are those who classify insaneness in another.