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One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a title familiar to many, either through the multiple Academy Award winning movie or the original novel written by Ken Kesey in 1962. The novel was an instant hit, causing quite the sensation as it challenged authority and ridiculed conformity. It was then adapted into a successful stage play by Dale Wasserman shortly after in 1963.
Ken Kesey was inspired to write this novel as a result of his time spent working as an aide at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. While working at the hospital, he also volunteered to be involved in the CIA financed study named Project MKULTRA. This study was to investigate the effects of psychoactive drugs, namely LSD, on people. He was required to experiment with these mind altering drugs for the CIA's purposes and being exposed to these substances also contributed to his interesting experiences and conversations with patients at the hospital. He continued to experiment with these drugs after his time involved in the study.
In this play directed by Ben Lenzo, we are taken into the world of a 1960's mental institution in America. It begins with a monologue from Chief Bromden, and then introduces us to the many unusual patients, all with their issues and quirks. Enter the subtly manipulating, one and only Nurse Ratched (Suzy Wilds) to show us just what torture can occur in these places. Newest in-take, Randle P. McMurphy arrives and causes quite a stir. He isn't interested in fitting in and playing by the rules, he wants to rally the patients to demand better for themselves. The chilling circumstances that ensue will make you think about much and feel for them all.
Cheyne Fynn played the role of Chief Bromden with such heart, giving an intense and compelling performance. I also immediately had a soft spot for Martini, played beautifully by David Villanti who was highly animated and entertaining. Sam Boneham, is definitely worth a mention for his impressive portrayal of Billy Bibbit, as he truly brought him to life. The focal character Randle P. McMurphy was played stunningly by Dave Woodland, who, for some reason reminded me of Dennis Quaid, in a good way though, definitely in a good way. Nurse Ratched and McMurphy have great chemistry and some very intense exchanges that make for exciting viewing. The entire cast played their parts wonderfully and convincingly, with no one person lacking.
From left: Aide Warren (Matt Cook), Chief Bromden (Cheyne Fynn), Aide Williams (Ben von Sperl)
I was very excited to see the stage interpretation of this story, and I was not disappointed. With the somewhat unsettling subject matter, I was surprised at the way I instantly warmed to the characters and how much humour had been injected into this setting, making it much easier to feel connected.
It was thoroughly enjoyable as well as heart wrenching. It brought such lightness and humour to a dark story, while showing the shockingly stark reality of what can go on in such grim places. I would highly recommend a night out to the theatre to experience this play.
I went and saw this on froday night. What a great night out. The actors were all so good and really made you connect with each of them. McMurphy was such a character. I would recommend this to everyone.