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”Cosi” by Louis Nowra Argumentative

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 759
  • Category: Audience

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In the play Cosi by Louis Nowra, recent university graduate Lewis Riley takes on a group of asylum patients and sets out to perform a play to earn some quick cash. In an attempt to bring the patients ‘out of their shells’ Lewis learns more than just the patients names; instead he is set on a journey of self-discovery where he learns about the importance of love and fidelity, the burden of stigma and the transformative power of the arts. Louis Nowra portrays stigma associated with mental illness throughout Cosi. Even from the very beginning of the play Nick refers to the patients as ‘madmen’, a derogative term, while expressing his dismay that Lewis is working with these kinds of people. Nick’s point of view is one shared by the general public in 1971, a view shared by Lewis in the beginning. The derogative label of madman is repeated throughout the play, even by social worker Justin, revealing his real opinion of mental illness and reiterating to the audience the stigma associated with mental illness. As the play progresses Lewis learns to be able to see through the label of madness to the vulnerable human being beneath. His patience with Ruth exemplifies this.

At the time of her most neurotic obsessiveness Lewis reassures her “That fine Ruth, I never doubted you…” Lewis is able to identify with the patients the more he learns about each one of them. He learns about life inside an asylum which leads to him siding with the patients against Justin, agreeing it was Cherry rather than Doug who started the fire, realizing how much this play means to them. The relationship between Lewis and the patients changes him, allowing him to recognize the importance of ‘love and fidelity’. Lewis, his girlfriend Lucy, and his best friend Nick, along with a lot of other people in the 1970’s believe in the concept of free love, where one person does not belong to another in a relationship but can belong to many different people. Lewis is reluctant to perform Cosi fan tutte with the patients as he sees it as being irrelevant, he says “Love is not so important nowadays”. Roy pushes for Lewis to perform Cosi fan tutte and the play goes on. Throughout the play there is a lot of talk about love and free love, the theme of Cosi fan tutte being about love and fidelity. It is only clear towards the end of the play as to how much Lewis has changed, especially in regards to love and fidelity “it’s about important things – like love and fidelity” makes it evident that Lewis has changed.

During his argument with Lucy there is contrast to the way Lewis thought about love and the way he does now. At the beginning of the play his view on love and fidelity was similar to that of Lucy’s “I have sex with him and sleep with you” that you can love someone yet still have sex with others just for, sex. The development of Lewis’ character as a result of his participation in the opera highlights another connection between Lewis and the patients; the transformative power of the arts. Performing Cosi fan tutte with the patients is Lewis’ first show out of university and so Lewis does not fully understand the transformative power of the arts. As the play progresses he makes a deeper connection with the patients and as each one of them starts to ‘come out of their shells’ Lewis starts to recognize this more. From the beginning Lewis was working with a group of misfit patients who were uninterested in performing a play.

This gradually changes and at the end of the play we are left with a bunch of motivated and passionate people. Social worker Justin remarks “Didn’t think it was possible. Came right out of their shells. They blossomed.” This is an example of how the transformative power of the arts can change people, something that Lewis also recognizes. Lewis develops deeper connections with the patients than either he or the audience would have thought. This connection helps Lewis opens his mind, which allows him to learn more about himself and society. From directing the play Lewis learns so much more than what he could have at university, things such as the importance of love and fidelity, the burden of stigma and the transformative power of the arts. This helps mold Lewis into the person he is at the end of his time at the asylum.

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