Key Ideas in 'Cosi'


Throughout Louis Nowra’s ‘Cosi’, he plays with perceptions of love, reality versus illusion and the treatment of mental patients. While varying each character’s take on these key ideas, he also manages to incorporate his own views.

The perception of love is possibly the best explored key idea in the play because each character has their own opinion of love. Whether it be Julie who thinks that love is “being foolish and stupid”, Doug’s reduction of everything to sex, Lucy and Nick’s commitment to ‘free love’, Cherry’s conviction that she is in love with Lewis or Henry’s wariness because of his previous experiences with love, Lewis is in the middle, slowly being shaped by everyone’s conflicting thoughts.

Nowra is quite clearly critical of institutionalisation and the treatment of the mentally ill. This is shown by Zac being constantly over-medicated to the point of a stupor, the patients appearing to sometimes medicate themselves, Julie being sent to the institution despite her drug addiction being better handled at a rehabilitation facility and Justin’s almost indifference to the patients.

The key idea of reality and illusion and the distinction between them is an undertone throughout the entire play. The play within a play structure of ‘Cosi’ lends itself to this idea as it supports the question of whether or not we can properly determine what is real and what is not. The character of Ruth is particular preoccupied with separating reality from illusion, asking questions like “Did they have instant coffee in Mozart’s day?” The character of Roy hasn’t got a firm grasp on reality, clearly inventing an ideal past for himself, the idea of which is probably best summed up by Zac – “If I could put up with reality then I wouldn’t be here.” In the character of Lewis this key idea is explored through his deluding himself that Lucy is being faithful and the interactions with the ‘insane’ characters and the ‘normal’ characters.