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
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
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.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game