BLOG Sophie Baggott

NWR Issue 110

'Cosy' by Kaite O'Reilly at WMC

'Objectum sexuality, it’s called.’ Reminiscence of a grown woman in love with her car – a Fiesta, was it? – elicits dirty cackles from her sisters. Not the tone I had expected from ‘Cosy’, but a well-judged (and hilarious) balance to the production’s weightier matters.

This new play by Kaite O’Reilly explores the ageing process through three generations of women. Poor mental health and physical debilitation sear the core characters, but O’Reilly juggles dark themes with a light touch for the most part. Witty one-liners pierce even the more serious conversations, while light-hearted chatter is also dotted throughout the show. ‘Cosy’ is simultaneously the most moving and entertaining script I’ve heard on a Welsh stage in years.

The all-female cast members are each phenomenally in tune with their characters. Camille – or Camomile, a name discarded in her youth – (played by Ruth Lloyd) is a fiercely proud, materialistic redhead who adores and teases her daughter Isabella in equal measure. The teenager, conceived using a sperm donor, has apparently encyclopaedic intelligence (superior genes from the paternal side, according to Isabella’s aunts).

Relations between Camille and her sisters, Ed and Gloria, are frayed to say the least. Gloria is the wild child, whose crush on her car had been a final straw for Camille. The pair had been long estranged and their thorny reunion plays out to the audience’s amusement when mysterious circumstances bring the family back to the house that is now kept by the eldest sister and their mother.

This is a melancholy home; both inhabitants are weary of living. Even the vivacious Camille deflates soon after arrival and confides in her mother, Rose (Sharon Morgan), that she no longer throws a shadow when walking along a street. With age comes invisibility, she says. Often, however, Camille’s maturity seems outmatched by her daughter. She mocks Isabella’s aversion to make-up and pushes her to give blusher a go, before adding sourly that on women of her age it is merely ‘brick dust in cracks’.

O’Reilly’s writing is, at times, breathlessly beautiful. Without warning, bickering is wrenched into raw, soul-searching outbursts. Rose is desperately suicidal. She has lost any will to grind on with existence over the years since her husband’s premature death. She doesn’t want to deteriorate into a breathing sudoku, she cries, and insists on tattooing ‘do not resuscitate’ across her chest. While her daughters sway between feeling aghast and disinterested, Isabella jovially helps her grandmother leaf through handbooks on how to die.

Given this plotline, one might likewise have been aghast at the deafening decibels of laughter spilling out of Weston Studio throughout the performance. Yet, rather than cloaking ‘Cosy’ in gloom, O’Reilly’s play beams with black comedy. The sisters are wickedly funny in this cross-wired mess of a situation. The playwright displays a quite perfect clip of how families so often muddle their way through the most maze-like dramas with a ‘well, you have to laugh’ mentality.

Rose’s helper, Maureen, arguably steals the show. Played by Sara Beer, Maureen plods in and out with her drip and her occasional streams of resilient, ageless wisdom. She brings temporary calm to the sea of volatile tempers on this minimalist set: an army of red armchairs. These are initially covered in dustsheets – symbolic of a house unlived in – that are gradually lifted as the household edges back into some semblance of life.

Our glimpse into this family’s sagas rings bells that ring resound long after the audience has filed out. The main thing is not to lose heart, Maureen murmurs to Rose towards the end: lose your patience, teeth, virtue, handbag, but don’t lose heart.

Sophie Baggott is a blogger-in-residence at New Welsh Review and is an MA Journalism candidate at Cardiff University.

‘Cosy’, written by Kaite O’Reilly and directed by Philip Zarrilli, was at Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, on 8-12 March 2016 The production was supported by Unlimited.

Image, Farrows Creative, showing Sharon Morgan (L) as Rose and Ruth Lloyd as Camille


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