A violent clash between the self proclaimed ‘top man in every situation’ and a ‘ball cutter from way back’: it can only be Ken Kesey’s renowned tale of insanity and the institutional environment. Adapted for theatre by Dale Wasserman, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest has lost none of its originality over the past 50 years.
Nurse Ratched exercises near absolute power within her mental institution, controlling the minutiae of her patients’ lives, including access to television and even toiletries. Vengeful and spiteful, she revokes these privileges at the slightest provocation, promoting a brand of ward democracy that would put certain Middle Eastern dictators to shame.
Feigning psychosis to avoid prison, the new arrival, Randle McMurphy, flouts rules with audacious impunity; uncowed, and even buoyed by her punishments, he urges rebellion amongst those who are sane enough to join in.
This adaptation by EmpathEyes Theatre includes some notably good choreography and the orchestra’s mournful music gives us a taste of the tragic events to come. The large cast work very well together; divided into categories, the patients interact with each other on different levels depending on their condition.
The ‘chronics’ are credibly portrayed incorporating a variety of vegetative states. The ‘acutes’ include some of the strongest characters. Billy Bibbit’s (Christopher Eastwood) stutter and nervousness is convincing and Robert Rowe portrays the closet homosexual, Dale Harding, well. Daniel Addis warms up well to the role of McMurphy and the Chief (DK Ugonna) succeeds in commanding the stage with his soliloquies. Sadly, Nurse Ratched (Kate Kenyon) seems miscast. Too young, too pretty and too nice, she simply doesn’t command the presence and authority needed to pull off this role.
However, this adaptation provides an interesting study of the power struggle between two individuals against a background of sanity and madness.
By Rachel Phillips
Tickets £18/12 available from Theatro Technis. Performances are at 7.30pm on 1-6 March and 9-12 March with weekend matinees at 2pm. No Sunday evening performances. Theatro Technis is a short walk from Mornington Crescent tube, NW1.