Cosi by Louis Nowra: Concept of Reality

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“I can’t stand real things. If I could put up with reality I wouldn’t be in here.” How does Nowra allow the real world to be escaped but also a constant presence in his play?

Through the use of many diverse characters, Louis Nowra in his play Cosi reflects on the idea that the concept of reality has the potential to differ when based on different perspectives. Nowra explores the true meaning of reality and reveals that although certain mentally challenged people believe they are isolated from others in the real world; it is made evident that the outside world may not be so different from the world inside the asylum after all. Although the real world is not distinctly made apparent in the asylum, it is evident that it is constantly present in the play.

The question of what is real and what is an illusion is constantly explored through Cosi. Through the concept of theatre, Nowra expresses the theme of reality, which is entrenched in the illusion of the rehearsals and performance of the opera, creating characters and “real” themes such as love and fidelity that occur in the life of “normal” people, to invite an audience to participate in the realization of this illusionistic approach to life. The patients of the institution, together with Lewis engage in the cooperative construction of the imaginary world of “Cosi Fan Tutte”, alluding to the idea that although they are in the midst of building an illusory world which they may become too caught up in at times, the patients, as well as Lewis are aware that their real world consisting of living in the mental institution, is still existent. The play endorses the idea that imagination can be empowering, which is made evident by Ruth who expresses that she “can live with illusion as long as [she] knows it’s illusion”, revealing that at times the awareness of what is reality and it’s contrast with illusion can be liberating, and feels that the only way this can be dealt with is through the realization and ability to...
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