Tag Archives: Robin Don

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – 3 Stars


One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Chickenshed Theatre

Reviewed – 19th April 2018


“the stilted opening gives way to a no less thought-provoking play


Told from the perspective of the seemingly deaf and mute patient ‘Chief’ Bromden, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ takes place in a psychiatric ward in 1950s Oregon. The impetus for the story is the arrival of R.P.McMurphy, a gambler who has tried his luck feigning psychopathy to spend a sentence in the relative relaxation of an asylum rather than toiling on a prison farm. However, he finds that things won’t be such plain sailing when he meets the inimitable ‘Big’ Nurse Ratched.

As the weak and pliable Dr Spivey (Jonny Morton) explains to the patients, the ward is a microcosm of society at large. Whilst on one level we are watching corruptions of power and primitive tolerance of mental illness in fifties asylums; one can also read this as a allegory for the much larger machinations of state action and punishment of those who challenge the status quo. Particular attention is drawn to notions of masculinity, often tied up in sexual prowess, and how the power this exercises over individuals can have devastating consequences.

Olivier Leclair is excellent as the dynamic, lovable rogue McMurphy. His antics bring life to the ward developing a sense of camaraderie between the characters and building their confidence through fun and friendship.

Paul Harris gives a standout performance as Harding, whose droll and cerebral manner feels out of place from the rest of the patients. Harris’ feisty challenge of McMurphy builds perfectly in intensity, until he flips from anger to resignation to comic effect. Bradley Davis’ stoicism as Chief Bromden creates a steady pace which anchors the piece, whilst Lauren Cambridge as Candy Star makes a big impact during her short appearances, acting as a bright and stark contrasting female figure to the controlled and cruel Nurse Ratched, played by Belinda McGuirk.

Robin Don’s set design is relatively sparse but carefully considered. The window, which is the only link between the ward and the outside world, looms over the middle of the stage, illuminating the centre floor with rings of painted light slowly fading to grey. This acts as a constant reminder of the possibility of escape from the patients, in some cases voluntary, commitment to the ward.

The 1975 film version of the story, starring Jack Nicholson will inevitably be a draw for audiences. And although the energy of the piece is carried by a few members of the large cast, the stilted opening gives way to a no less thought-provoking play.


Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography courtesy Chickenshed


One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Chickenshed Theatre until 12th May


Previous Chickenshed shows
Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow | ★★★★ | Chickenshed Theatre | March 2018
Monolog | ★★★ | Chickenshed Theatre | February 2018
Rapunzel | ★★★★ | Chickenshed Theatre | December 2017


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