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Louis Nowra’s screenplay ‘Cosi’ explores the attitudes to and perception of the mentally ill in 1971. During this period Australia is at war and undergoing social reform. The perception of mental patients in the 70s can be seen as unethical and inhumane, with society grouping them with animals and locking them away in asylums with barbaric conditions. The 70s saw mental illness being neglected and kept in the dark and with movies that depict ‘mad’ people as animals; a negative connotation is placed upon these people. Nowra attempts to shed light on the issue and change our attitude by drawing sympathy for them through his play ‘Cosi’.

Lewis is the director of the play, and is hesitant at first due to the fact that these people are mad, but as his character develops, he finds that they are normal people, with some different needs. In the beginning, Lewis only takes up the position as director for the money that will result. This is seen in a negative manner, and reader or viewer is given the impression that Lewis classes himself far away from these people, showing the lack of acceptance in society of the mentally ill. This is also shown on page 2, when Roy introduces himself to Lewis as a patient whilst Nick and Lucy are present. As soon as this is known to Nick and Lucy that Roy is a patient, they quickly find an excuse to leave, despite having promised to help Lewis with the play. In this instance, Nick and Lucy represent society outside the asylum, and demonstrate this negative attitude toward the mentally ill. The first time that Lewis really views the patients as normal people is during his conversation with Julie, a drug addict, from page 32 to 33. Julie engages Lewis in conversation of men’s attitude toward women

Nowra aims to garner sympathy for mental patients through constructing his characters in ‘Cosi’ in a way that shows that these people are fully functional human beings. By carefully creating the personality of each character, Nowra is able to...
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