One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Review

The Electric Theatre
March 2012

“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” by Dale Wasserman is the first of this years productions for The Pranksters Theatre Company and what a start to the year.

Taken from the programme, let me give you a brief synopsis of the play: Set in an Oregon state mental institution in 1961, where the patients are ruled by Nurse Ratched (played by Jessica Nunn) with an unbending routine of mind-numbing drugs and group therapy. That is, until the arrival of R.P McMurphy (played by Steve Griffin), a swaggering, fun loving, serial criminal who has pleaded insanity to avoid prison and enjoy what he believes will be a short and cushy stint in hospital. Determined to bring defiance, laughter and liberation to his fellow patients, he declares all out war on Nurse Ratched. However, defiance will not be tolerated and obedience is the only way to survive.!!

I was intrigued to see this production, as a huge fan of the film I wondered how they were going to tackle many parts of it, mainly how they were going to live up to the performances given by Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher. It appears that I needn’t be concerned because every performance, by every actor was out of this world.

On entering the auditorium the clean bright set, which was the same throughout the entire piece, made you immediately feel clinical. Coupled with authentic hospital props and costumes and the wonderful lighting and sound, it was clear that the technical side of the show was going to be as good as the acting.

I was also overjoyed to see how the actors had clearly taken on, in great depth, the task of building their characters. Throughout the whole performance not one character revealed “themselves” even when exiting the stage and I was most impressed with the acting of the Gentleman who didn’t speak a word in the entire show but maintained his character and remained as if “on the cross” – he was enthralling to watch.

All members of the cast were fantastic and of such a high standard – I must make particular mention of a few: The performance of Nurse Ratched played by Jessica Nunn was outstanding. Her demeanor was severe and her accent was utterly brilliant. She walked the set like she owned it and her almost monotone voice was a nice contrast to the other characters. Steven Griffin played “McMurphy” with levels of enthusiasm that I didn’t know were possible. Griffin gave a tour de force performance, never once letting the energy drop but equally in the moments where he needed compassion, they were visible. His scenes with Chief Bromden (played by Mike Willoughby) were captivating. As already mentioned all members of the cast were also excellent, but I must admit that my two favourite performaces were by Dino Costa as Anthony Martini and Philip Hutchinson as Charles Cheswick. These gentleman completely embodied their characters right down to nervous twitches and the posture they held.

The entire production was pleasing to watch and it was obvious that a lot of time and thought had been spent making sure that mental illness was portrayed as authentically as possible. Director, Marie Gardner and her Assistant Jennifer Haynes should be praised for this wonderfully performed and at times touching production. Its shows like this that get people thinking about mental illness and supporting a campaign like “Time to Change” is a perfect chance to educate people.

Well done to every cast and crew member involved in “Cuckoo”, you all deserve to pat yourselves on the back.

Nicole Rose- Sardines Review March 2012