Saturday, 28 February 2015

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Apr 2015)

The second venture will be a Spring production of the always intriguing, “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. This challenging piece of theatre attracted some new blood to the society as well as tempting back some returning members (possibly from more years ago than they care to remember! ).

This darkly humorous play is set in an American psychiatric hospital where the strict rules and routines are about to be shattered by the arrival of charismatic rogue, RP McMurphy. His battles with the controlling Nurse Ratched may give a new lease of life to his fellow inmates, but they turn out to be a gamble that has consequences for them all.

There were three performances at 7.30pm on 23rd, 24th and 25th April in The Plough.


NODA Review

Abuse of power. Mental Illness. Violence. Camaraderie. All these elements make up Dale

Wasserman’s stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s vision of the madhouse, in “One Flew Over the

Cuckoo’s Nest”. These are difficult elements to portray convincingly and with the appropriate

sensitivity, not to mention taxing on the cast’s energy level.

The Players did it brilliantly!


I was engaged in the performance right from the moment I walked into the auditorium, to be faced

with ‘The Chief’ standing stock still in the middle of the set. Motionless for what must have been

about 20 or 30 minutes pre-show. Dimly lit, he was an unnerving sight that transfixed the audience

and set us all up with the feeling that this was an uncomfortable and unfriendly place. As the show

opened we were taken into his thoughts by way of a great piece of video work, that was stylish and

professional, not just in it’s editing, but also in it’s effects that painted the Chief’s mind as a stark,

scary and dark. Excellent work.


The discomfort in what we were seeing increased steadily, with moments that could have been from a

Panorama exposé on cruelty as the two orderlies played out their petty torments on the inmates with



I would actually say that I found no area of the production to be weak and found myself revelling in the

high standard of performance.


The only things I would pick out are a couple of the accents were not quite strong enough and I would

have liked to have seen a little more work to make The Chief more “tribal” – maybe through the use of

a facial tattoo. But these are really very minor things as both I and my fellow audience members loved

the whole thing.


The protagonists, McMurphy and Ratchett, were both played splendidly. McMurphy was a ball of

energy who’s mission became the undermining of Nurse Rachett’s little empire. He was both

destructive (to the establishment) and supportive (of his fellow inmates), delivering a performance that

kept the flow of action running smoothly, without dropping our engagement once.


Likewise, Ratchett’s performance was very slick, walking the difficult line between being a professional

nurse and a “power-crazy control freak”. She kept us flitting between seeing her as saint and sinner,

just as McMurphy jumped between saviour and savage.


Surrounding these two as they drew their battle lines were a very strong group of inmates and staff.

Even those who had little, or no, dialogue were well focused on their characters and location, not

once appearing to be dressing the set. It was impressive to see such a large cast working so well as a

team on set. There was just one substitution in the cast in which Scanlon was played by a woman –

but although that can be a risky thing to do, the audience accepted the change easily.


As for the technical aspects, the set was very well done, successfully creating the sterile rec room of

the institute, with a well conceived “meds room” which incorporated a nifty tannoy system to bark

orders from within. The strip light inside also did a great job of highlighting it as a separate space and

very bunker-like. Lighting was simple but very effective, taking us from day to a very atmospheric

night, plus some extra effects including the unseen electro-shock treatment room with it’s spilling out

of strobed light and chilling sound effect to accompany it.


Considering that this was this director’s first outing he managed the tension very well, in particular the

closing moments of the story in which he made excellent use of contemplative silences before the

final dramatic moment.


While the whole of the supporting cast were strong, comment must be made about ‘Billy’ whose

performance was outstanding. Starting as a vulnerable, timid and troubled young man, his explosions

of anger and frustration were unexpected and stunning, culminating in McMurphy’s scheme to

‘release his inner-self’ and ultimate tragedy as he takes his own life.


This was a fantastic production and I hope that everyone involved feels rightly proud with what they

have achieved.

Ian Goodenough

Saturday, 28 February 2015