A fractious face of madness

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The cast of “Cosi”. Photo: Helen Drum

Theatre / “Cosi”, by Louis Nowra, directed by Sophie Benassi. At Canberra Rep until April 24. Reviewed by ARNE SJOSTEDT

In SBS’s “Food Safari”, host Maeve O’Mara sometimes seems like she’s been thrown out of her depth, into some kind of cultural practice of a culinary variety that is unfamiliar, and Maeve just isn’t quite handling it.

It’s not that she isn’t respectful, just not comfortable with it all.

While the overall impression was satisfying, there was a bit of that going on with this production.

Amidst some capable and immersive portrayals, the madness on stage was fractious and riddled with mania and an infantile energy that at times infected even the straight characters.

Elliot Cleaves as Zac. Photo: Helen Drum

Which made it difficult to take in a long production about mad people and an inept director attempting to perform the near impossible.

Against a bleak set that seemed to speak of self-destruction and a black hole of hopelessness, translating crazy in this way is perhaps one approach available to director Sophie Benassi to communicate a sense of instability and mental unrest. However, this attitude belies the potential to find other moments of human truth; and even a hidden few moments of calm within the storm.

From left, Martin Fatmaja, Max Gambale and Alex Castello in “Cosi”. Photo: Helen Drum

By the end, as the play launched into the more familiar, successful energy of a traditional farce, the mania made more sense. Mind you, this only felt like a release from the pent-up confusion that had proceeded the denouement.

I’m unsure if the quality lies in the play or the show. Or both. However, I longed for a greater sense of reality. There is more to say about insanity and the often-associated sadness around it than to portray the mentally unwell as if they are children, or incapable of something other than becoming a metaphorical fried egg.

Mind you, having just watched Britney Spears’ latest video post, the sensation was not unlike that of watching “Cosi”. So maybe there is more right than wrong with this ultimately enjoyable show.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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