Ticketed Seating Can Go Burn a Cat!
Marking the 10th Anniversary of La Boite at the Roundhouse Theatre sees a welcome return of one of Australia’s most iconic and loved comedies; Louis Nowra’s Cosi.
After the initial kafuffle over the new seating arrangements at La Boite, which prolonged the curtain-up time by around fifteen minutes, one must ask whether this is just growing pains or if the venue (or audience) just doesn’t suit ticketed seating. As a loyal patron who loves the unique indie feel that La Boite gives, maybe it doesn’t suit the brand of theatre either? Choosing your own seats for a creative theatre-going audience is a subtle part of the interactive, immersive experience don’t you think? It would be interesting to take a poll…
Back to the show at hand …
La Boite has produced Cosi before, at different venues: Hale St in 1993 and QPAC Playhouse in 2003. This time the production is at the Roundhouse Theatre and no one is complaining. It is a brilliant production, directed by David Berthold, and reminds us of just how funny and well penned this play is.
Cosi is set in 1971, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Lewis (Ben Schostakowski), fresh from university theatre, has just landed his first directing job and is faced with the task of producing a play as occupational therapy in a Melbourne mental asylum. Lewis must navigate his way between the outside world and the pressures of his politically minded friend Nick and girlfriend Lucy, spouting free love and opposition to the Vietnam war and his moral obligations to the patients who seem to be more in need of his help.
Manic Depressive Roy (Trevor Stuart), quickly takes over, producing the libretto to Mozart’s opera Così fan tutte. The fact that none of the patients can sing or speak Italian is a mute point. In fact, one of the patient’s is mute for most of the first act.
Stuart plays Roy superbly with total character immersion and is exciting to watch. It’s hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm for “the music of the spheres”, while taking everyone on a roller-caster ride of mood swings.
Jessica Marais (Packed to the Rafters) plays the dual roles of junkie Julie and Lewis’ political girlfriend Lucy. From memory, in amateur productions, Julie is more remembered for her overt sexuality than her troubles with addiction. Marais gives Julie a lovely vulnerability which I have not seen in past productions and which gives the character more depth.
Also well-known from his role in Packed to the Rafters) James Stewart is just endearing as Henry, an introverted ex-lawyer who is partly paralysed and is silent through most of the first act. When a trigger sets him off, the audience is on his side and really feel for him. In fact, humanity that shines through all of the characters.
Aaron Davison’s Doug is one of the most normal of the bunch; he’s just a thrill-seeker who likes to set things on fire. Oh, and maybe oversteps a few social boundaries, especially when it comes to sex. Davison’s portrayed Doug as a lovable chilled out bogan, with a peppiness that injected energy into whatever scenes he was in. Most refreshing in comparison with other interpretations I’ve seen.
Jennifer Flowers’ was loveable as the wall-flower obsessive-compulsive Ruth. Ruth is so engrossed in the details, down to how many steps she has to take ‘on-stage’. She is so sincere in her quest to grasp whether or not she is playing an illusion, or reality, or only pretending to be real, that we fear she just might implode.
Amy Ingram’s Cherry is obsessed with both food and Lewis. Seemingly harmless one minute, she turns into scary, flick-wielding bully in three seconds flat. Ingram has astutely worked through these transitions; add her precise comic timing and you have a Cherry who is delightful to watch.
Anthony Standish had the challenge of playing three roles: Lewis’ best friend and political activist Nick, social worker Justin, and lithium induced Zac. Although being able to portray three different characters is admirable, the risk is that all are not drawn fully and therefore tend to become caricatures. Compared with the rest of the cast, the character of Nick felt a little over-played, while Justin felt a little one-dimensional. However, Zac, the Wagner loving accordion player was a hoot, even on lithium!
The set design by Hugh O’Connor created the sense of the play-within-a-play that is Cosi. O’Connnor has transformed the Roundhouse Theatre into a burnt out theatre-within-a-theatre, complete with red curtain, foot lights, dodgy circuitry and leaking roof. In contrast there was nothing dodgy about Ben Hughes lighting design and Samuel Boyd’s sound design. The choreographed scene changes, mostly done by the cast, were also a nice touch. If you have to change the scene as an actor, you may as well make it part of the show.
If you have never seen Louis Nowra’s Cosi (or a professional production of it), then do go to La Boite’s latest rendition to see some phenomenal acting and have some (ok, a lot) of seriously laugh out loud, guffaw, and even snort a couple of times, moments.