One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

Having mentioned previously that the first four performances of 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' had been cancelled, it was with some reserve that I ventured along to the Assembly Rooms this afternoon. I half expected that the show would have been again cancelled, or an understudy would be used to play Randle P McMurphy after Christian Slater had been apparently so ill. Turned out that neither was the case, the producers ran the show as a public dress rehearsal, offering those who didn't approve their money back. Few took them up on the offer.

I started to read the book a while ago and, as I recall, got bored and abandoned it. The film I have yet to see, so I was pretty much unaware of what the whole thing was about. Fortunately, the play was both gripping and entertaining. The man behind us, who had been kicking my back, heavy breathing and making odd noises all the way through, exclaimed in his overly enthusiastic American way, "That was Awesome". I'm not sure if it was awesome or not - but it really was very very enjoyable.


Christian Slater - who I've recently discovered only people my age know of - played R P McMurphy very believably, a task made harder I'm sure the more well known he is for film roles notably in The Name of the Rose, Heathers, True Romance, Untamed Heart, Broken Arrow, Pump Up The Volume, Bed of Roses, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Interview with the Vampire. He had up until today apparently has missed eleven days of rehearsals, never seen the set and he was still recovering from illness. It didn't particularly show however.

MacKenzie Crook (Gareth from the Office) was brilliant as stuttering Billy, other cast members included Adrian Hope, Owen O'Neill, Ian Coppinger, Dave Johns, Gavin Robertson, Phil Nichol, Felix Dexter, Lucy Porter, Lizzie Roper, Katherine Jakeways, Stephen K Amos, Tim Ahern.

The story written by Ken Kesey and brought to the stage by Dale Wasserman, is set in the sterile confines of a US mental hospital in the early 1960s. Into this world walks McMurphy, a violent, larger-than-life gambler who has faked psychosis to avoid the drudgery of a working gaol.

The cast of eccentrics live out their banal routines watched over by the tyrannical Nurse Ratched and in constant fear of the brutal treatment dealt out in the 'Shock-Shop'. Randle vows to fight one-man battle against the institution, risking losing the respect of the inmates, his life and chances of freedom. The ensuing power struggle between Randle and Nurse Ratched results in a suicide, a murder and a liberation.

As a comment on mental illness this play is inadequate - it proposes that the huddled masses can be cured by kissing girls, watching baseball, gambling and parties. It doesn't seem to be about that though, more focus is on the emasculation of the inmates through institutional life (under the control of Nurse Ratched) and by metaphor of society inhibiting 'shameful' expressions of character.

Key Indicators
Number of times I looked at my watch: 0
Standing Ovation: A minute or so
Audience: Full House
Ticket Price: £12
Resultant Rating: * * * * *

Posted by Paul in Fringe Festival Edinburgh at August 11, 2004 04:23 AM | 1 Comments