Theatre: On The Fringe

The Humorous Lieutenant BAC n Cosi New End Theatre Nixon's Nixon The Bridewell n Mainstream The Bush

THERE IS truly deep madness on display in John Fletcher's The Humorous Lieutenant, in which a lieutenant with venereal disease drinks a magic potion and falls in love with the King. The elderly King is trying to inflict his wrinkled desires on the young Celia, but finds he hasn't got the Michael Douglas touch as she rebuffs him in favour of his son Demetrius. Demetrius himself is fighting in the war his father is waging over land inherited from Alexander the Great. His fellow officers are worried he is more concerned with Cupid's arrows than the enemy's.

Fletcher was a contemporary of Shakespeare and left behind more plays (57) than anybody else writing at the time. Unfortunately, even in the case of play collections, size doesn't count, and most people have concluded that Fletcher's main writing achievement derives from his collaborations with playwrights such as Beaumont and Jonson.

Even so, Philip Wilson has produced a lively and enjoyable evening, which highlights the positive aspects of the writing. In the intimacy of BAC's Studio II the cast parade around on a chessboard-style floor and debate issues of love, honour, and war with the confidence of the trumpets that herald the first act. Victoria Woodward's virtuous Celia glows with passion and Duncan Henderson is a jaunty successor to the comic soldiers who have crossed stages since Plautus.

Juggling actors' egos is a trick all directors have to learn, but Lewis in Cosi is faced with tougher demands than most. What do you do, for example, with an actor whose idea of fun is setting fire to five cats and watching them zip around like mobile mewing bonfires? Full Circle Theatre takes Cosi fan tutte and shows how seven patients from a mental institution transform it in rehearsal. This curious blend of high culture, psychotic interpretations of Mozart, and left-wing politics is set against the backdrop of Seventies Melbourne. Lewis, the director, is an ardent left-wing idealist who finds his loyalties increasingly torn between going on anti-Vietnam demonstrations and directing at least one individual who tends towards a pyromaniac's notion of bringing the house down. He sticks with the opera, and finds that virtue brings its own chaotic punishments.

Unfortunately, it all jars because director Tim Roseman has mistakenly encouraged caricatures of the mentally ill rather than examining their subtleties. For example, Chelsea Blake as Cherry rolls her eyeballs, bares her teeth and wields her flick-knife for easy laughs, but although she is an able comic actress, her performance carries the unhappy implication that psychosis is simply the scary big brother of stupidity. Only Michael Leslie, as a recluse in schoolboy shorts, and Stan Pretty, as the Mozart fan with a tendency towards toddler temper-tantrums, manage to invest their roles with the dignity and credibility that might eventually make this play worth watching.

Two plays that survived Edinburgh have now resurfaced in London. The Independent has reviewed both of these already, but it is impossible not to urge audiences to make their way to Nixon's Nixon, a truly funny and excellent evening which imagines the conversation that might have taken place between Nixon and Kissinger the night before Nixon's resignation. Then, once you've sorted your political sensibilities out, get personal with David Greig's Mainstream: a minimalist meditation on modern relationships, which rings all the bells while avoiding all the cliches.

`The Humorous Lieutenant' (0171-223 2223) to 26 Sept; `Cosi' (0171-794 0022) to 3 Oct; `Nixon's Nixon' (0171-936 3456) to 25 Sept; `Mainstream' (0181-743 3388) to 2 Oct

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'