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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
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.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits