An ambitious production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest at the Lost Theatre in Wandsworth gives us cause to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ken Kesey’s novel. The story of life in an insane asylum, with its charismatic anti-hero McMurphy, is a stirring battle between the individual and the institution, which director Paul Taylor-Mills production tackles commendably.
Sean Buchanan takes on the role of McMurphy made famous by Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film. Nicholson’s performance has only this week been named the best ever in cinema by Total Film magazine but Buchanan doesn’t seem one bit daunted – his energetic delivery as the “mad dog” is commanding and the inspiration he offers his fellow patients convincing.
There is some fine work from this large cast. Bradley Rhys Williams plays Dale Harding, the president of the patients’ council, cogent and waspish by turns, and Lee Colley is deeply moving as the stammering Billy Bibbit, both cowered into submission by Annabel Capper’s formidable Nurse Ratched. The intensity of Bobby Bulloch’s catatonic Ruckly deserves a mention as does the attention to detail shown in Paul Cleveland’s obsessive Cheswick and Richard Vorster’s paranoid Scanlon.
During large group scenes, Taylor-Mills’ direction excels and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest really excites. This show is full of intelligent touches, including Tom Munday’s projection used to great effect when Dwayne Washington’s Chief Bromden tells his story. Washington makes the most of his role but his part is the play’s biggest problem –sadly, common to many adaptations, Dale Wasserman’s script is a pale adaptation of Kesey’s masterpiece. Ultimately, despite the production’s valiant efforts, the best way to celebrate this anniversary would be to read the book again.
Until 31 March 2012
Photo by Daniel Joseph Serra
Written 22 March 2012 for The London Magazine