ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
WINNER: NODA Best Regional Drama 2011
Facing a lengthy stretch at a prison work farm, boisterous, brawling bad boy, Randall P. McMurphy, feigns mental illness and is transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Confronted by a cruel regime, he challenges the tyrannical, ice-cold Nurse Ratched, and manages to bring laughter and liberation into the lives of his fellow inmates by opening their minds to the power of revolution. This uprising soon develops into an all-out war between staff and patients, in a struggle for the freedom of the ordinary man. Funny, shocking and profoundly moving, this play is one of the classics of American drama, and an enduring story of one individual's struggle against the system.
Cast and Creative Team
Chief Bromden | Phil Stanley
Aide Williams | Mik Horvath
Aide Warren | Marie Stone
Nurse Ratched | Sandy Lane
Nurse Flinn | Gemma Blake
Dale Harding | Ian Jones
Billy Bibbit | Ross Lowe-Sims
Cheswick | Ron Frost
Scanlon | Terry Stephenson
Martini | Stephen Lee-Rees
Ruckly | Heath Parkin
Randle P. McMurphy | Jason Parker
Dr Spivey | Craig Bridges
Aide Turkle | Gary Lever
Candy Starr | Laura Fovargue
Sandra / Nurse Pilbow | Lucy Heath
Director | Barry Taylor
Set Designer | Terry Stephenson
Costume Designer | Kirsty Brammer
Assistant Director | Lucy Heath
Lighting Designer | Stephen Greatorex
Sound Designer | Barry Taylor
Production Graphics | Marie Stone
Company Stage Manager | Phil Simcox
Assistant Stage Manager | Adam White
Props Manager | Mik Horvath
Photography | Kevin Lane
Playwright | Dale Wasserman (based on the novel by Ken Kesey)
"...definitely not one to miss..."
This company loves a challenge and they don’t come much harder than this one. An impressive set was designed by Terry Stephenson and mainly built by him, with help from members, and together with an effective lighting plot gave us the ambience of a hospital environment.
The cast members playing the asylum patients were all totally absorbed in their characters and all superbly portrayed their varied neuroses throughout the performance. Phil Stanley was imposing as the paranoid, hallucinating Chief Bromden acting as narrator of the mental ward. Ross Lowe gave a fine performance as the stuttering Billy Bibbitt as did Stephen Lee-Rees as Martini. Ian Jones was perfect in the role of Dale Harding whilst Terry Stephenson as Scanlon and Ron Frost as Cheswick ably fulfilled their respective roles. Heath Parkin gave a very disturbing but awesome portrayal of Ruckly who had had a botched lobotomy. Nurse Ratched, the detached, steely, controlling and calmly manipulating head of the ward was meticulously played by Sandy Lane.
The minor roles were all well cast adding their invaluable support. But, no matter how good the cast might be, and they were all terrific, like many shows it does rely on the strength of the main character – that of Randal Patrick McMurphy. Jason Parker totally embraced this role; he was absolutely outstanding, producing a truly first class memorable performance. Congratulations must go to Barry Taylor for directing what was a most powerful and dramatic production and to the wonderful cast for giving us such a great piece of theatre which veered from the hilarious to the harrowing and to being at times, disturbingly brutal!
I applaud everyone connected with this exceptional presentation.
George Bernard Shaw once said that “an asylum Ffor the sane would be empty in America”. After watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Guildhall this week, you start to ponder that he might have been right.
It appears the asylum could be the best place for some people with its cost routines until you realise their comfortably numb world is the result of drugs, surgery and electrohock therapy.
The organised world of the authoritarian Nurse Ratched is threatened by the arrival of Randle P McMurphy, a psychopath who tricked his way into the hospital believing it to be a better option than hard labour at a prison farm. But he finds it tough in a different way, although he soon has the other inmates stepping outside their dull and drab everyday lives, trying new experiences that threaten to destabilise the ward. Can Nurse Ratched tame him?
Fourblokes Theatre Company give this diverse play – one minute humorous, the next intensely sad – a good go, if at times you feel you are really part of the asylum.
The incredibly successful film starring Jack Nicholson is a hard act to follow. But with such limited stage space and confined to the same set, the 16 strong cast certainly pull out all the stops,
with excellent costumes by Kirsty Brammer, who volunteered her time to help out.
I warmed to Jason Parker as McMurphy as the play progressed and felt he settled into the role, the longer the production went on.
Good supporting roles were provided by asylum inmates Phil Stanley, Stephen Lee-Rees, Terry Stephenson, Ron Frost, Heath Parkin and Ian Jones.
But it was Ross Lowe’s performance as Billy Bibbit that shone, alternately evoking emotions of pity and happiness. He was superb as the stuttering 31 year old going on ten, completely dominated by his mother and Nurse Ratched, that is until McMurphy comes along.
But it can only end in tears, can’t it? It’s best to pop along and see it for yourself rather than spoil the ending. Needless to say, the play is thought-provoking and raises many questions about our treatment of those people deemed to need help for mental problems, and whether they get the treatment people want them to have rather than what they need.
Definitely not one to miss.
The pioneering stage work that helped break down mental health barriers
Fourblokes have never been a theatre company looking to avoid a challenge.
In fact, its founder members thrive on them, so staging One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s – the edgy American drama about attitudes to mental health in Western society – is just the type of project they enjoy.
“It is a certainly very complex multi-layered production,” admitted director Barry Taylor.
Based on the hugely successful 1950s novel by Ken Kesey, the Dale Wasserman-penned play eventually went on to spawn the Oscar-winning movie featuring Jack Nicholson.
“Complex characters and explosive narrative combine with daring subject matter to provide even the most skilled actors and directors with a challenge of the highest order,” explained Barry. “If handled badly the deep issues the drama explores could appear insensitive or
The play also requires a large cast but Fourblokes are fortunate enough to have attracted the cream of Derby’s amateur acting community to take part in it.
Barry said: “I must say that the quality of everyone’s performance is superb. I feel they really do justice to the spirit of the book which has been described as a contemporary masterpiece.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest helped to trigger a widespread change in people’s attitudes to mental health.
Barry said: “The novel put a spotlight on the dangers of how individuals can easily become ostracised and then institutionalised, simply for being different to the norm or because they
struggle to cope with the difficulties of life. It’s a theme which still has a great deal of relevance for contemporary audiences.”
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest challenged the abusive culture which had developed in many mental health institutions, including the routine use of lobotomies, on patients, who had little control over the treatment they received.”
Like the film, the play will contain some humour alongside the dark themes which run through it.
Barry opted to set the drama in the 1960s which was a time of great cultural and idealogical change in the West.
“Moving it forward a decade enabled us to use a musical soundtrack from the 60s, which resonates with the ideas which are explored in the play,” he explained.
“The mental institution in which the action is set serves as a microcosm of society at large and the pressures that exists to conform.”
Derby actor Jason Parker will take the role of Randle Patrick McMurphy – an anti-authoritarian character who refuses to conform. McMurphy was central in the film version of One Flew Over the
Cuckoo’s nest, but Fourblokes production will remain truer to the structure of the book.
The action is seen mainly through the eyes of native American chief Bromden, who in the film tends to see everything but says very little.
Fourblokes have certainly developed a reputation for setting the theatrical bar high in the world of amateur dramatics and having won several prestigious awards as a result.
This quest for professionalism has also placed the company in an enviable position in terms of talented people offering their services, both on the stage and behind the scenes.
“Everyone has worked extremely hard to provide a strong and creative production and we have been delighted that people want to contribute” said Barry.Barry’s ambition is to leave audiences feeling stretched and stimulated with something to think about.
“In choosing One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest we wanted to bring something ground-breaking to Derby audiences in the intimate surroundings of the Derby Guildhall,” he enthused. “It’s raw, it’s in your face – but it’s also a hugely entertaining piece of theatre.
“Even our costumes have been created by a talented young local designer called Kirsty Branner, who qualified from Trent University last year and volunteered her services.”
“It’s not the film and it’s not the book – it straddles the two while being an entity all of its own.”