Peter Zahnd reviews student writer Tim Foley’s latest and last play

Tim Foley simply hit the mark with Baby Bottle Cosmo, his final St Andrews production. A ‘dark comedy on gay parenting’, the play explores the intricacies of homosexual family circles in a variety of moods that range from spot-on hilarity to genuine dismay.

The play functions on a series of conflicts : the impetus of the action is the meeting of two homosexual couples gathered to discuss an altercation between their respective sons, Tommie and Dickie, the former having offered the latter to ‘play gay’. The two children are much talked of but never seen, and, until the very end, neither is ‘Potty Piggy’, one of the major and confusing enigmas of the play with which the male couple appear to be very concerned. Foley enjoys working on appearances and false resolutions : to name a few, Frankie de Williams is, in fact, not a playwright but an actor, the wife whom he pretends to have is a call-girl ; his actual partner is the actual playwright, and a thick veil of shadows is cast over the characters of Molly and Polly. Are they the same person? Is either of them anyone’s wife? To what extent are they related to the frantic action unfolding on stage? The audience is denied clear knowledge of the true facts in an almost oppressive way throughout most of the play.

The writing is excellent: Foley throws comical one-liners with the same ease as he develops complex themes. His use of dialogue is efficient and always relevant, and the able staging consistently works in a way that is beneficial to the text. The cast is equally solid : Sandra and Francesca (‘Frank’) Carter, played by Mimi von Schack and Mandarr Brandi, display the image of the more structured couple (‘You carry him, and and I carry you- that’s how it works’, states Frank), but the comic timing and body language of both actresses reaveals aptly the conflicts at play in their relationship. As Molly de Williams, Frankie’s make-believe wife, Sandra Russel offers a generally hilarious performance, but her softer tones at the very end are both natural and very genuine. Ed Fry does a very fine job at Alex Williams, the slightly saner one in the relationship. More responsible and composed, the character does start to lose it gradually in the second act and climaxes in a brutally striking outburst of violence towards Frankie. Frazer Hadfield’s portrayal of the psychologically ill Frankie remains fascinating throughout : the actor moves around the space with relentless energy as his character wavers between comical tongue-in-cheek and gripping insanity.

Much praise is due, then, to Tim Foley and his team. Baby Bottle Cosmo is a challenging piece of writing and of theatre – more than that, it is an inspiring one. I have been impressed with Foley’s abilities for a long time now, and this one clearly is one of the best student productions I have seen.

Peter Zahnd

Image: Tim Foley