Writer: Dale Wasserman
Music: Lewis Gibson
Director: Javaad Alipoor
Choreographer: Deb Pugh
Reviewer: Sophie Dodworth
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was first published in 1962 by Ken Kesey, adapted for the stage one year after by Dale Wasserman. The brilliant dramatisation took Broadway by storm and now this thought-provoking drama lands in Sheffield for a Sheffield Theatres production.
Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the plot follows Randle P McMurphy. He is a cheeky, magnetic and rebellious man who feigns being insane in order to avoid a prison sentence. His arrival to the ward of long-serving patients brings a new energy to the group but also sparks insurrection and a question of freedom. The undisputed authority on the ward comes in the form of Nurse Ratched and McMurphy is determined to challenge her. The theme of the ongoing battle between the pair becomes one of the main threads of the production. Rebellion and conformity clash, and McMurphy and his fellow patients learn what happens to the individual when the institution takes control.
The cast is the highlight of the show, with the majority delivering solid performances throughout. Chief Bromden, played by Jeremy Proulx, is a stand out character. Proulx delivers a mesmerising, profound performance as the Chief, narrating in part as we follow his journey to sanity and personal strength.
Arthur Hughes takes on his role as timid and fearful Billy Bibbit with absolute dedication. Hughes has to be up there with the top performances of the night, pulling at heartstrings with his emotive explosions and erratic outbursts.
Leading the way is Joel Gillman as McMurphy. When first entering the stage the energy shifts, the audience is hooked in a little deeper and the story is injected with colour. Vibrant and professional, Gillman is at the heart of the Cuckoo’s Nest.
A slight disappointment to the cast is the replacement of Nurse Ratched due to injury of the original cast member. Jenny Livsey took on this role but evidently not ready as the majority of the time, reading from her script. This obviously can’t be helped when productions do not have prepared understudies; however, the true talent of Livsey was missed due to eyes down, script reading. This did unfortunately just take the edge off the show being totally polished.
The stage is set just the once, block brown walls and rather plain and insipid but as the production goes on, it is built upon by the colourful personalities of the patients. On one side of the stage, you have two glass-fronted offices and the action in there can be seen throughout the entire performance. Eyes are drawn to the top office for the majority of the first act where you see the hospital director and a nurse drinking, dancing and generally cavorting.
This show is not for the faint-hearted and with scenes of violence, electric shock treatment and death, can at times be somewhat uncomfortable. However, this version of Wasserman’s adaptation is well staged and finely tuned, highly recommended for fans of the famous tale.
Runs until 23 June 2018 | Image: Mark Douet