Curve, Leicester.
Runs 2hrs 35m. One interval
to 5 November
Review: Ian Spiby, Thursday 20 October

Flawless Production of a Modern Classic

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST is perhaps best known to modern audiences through the 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson although there was a notable and very successful revival of the play a few years ago in the West End; both versions derived from the 1962 novel of the same name.
I was possibly part of a minority of the first night audience of the Curve’s new production in never having seen or read it in any version before and was therefore in a privileged position of not knowing what was going to happen. And I can tell you that the impact was tremendous. This was considerably enhanced by the fact that nobody concerned with the production appeared to put a foot wrong!

Ellen Cairns’ superb set of the cavernous institution stretching back to an enormous depth greets the audience as they come in. It is replete with chilling details: one wall made of glass bricks, bars covering the windows and the soundproofed glass-fronted booth where staff sit. Lighting Designer, Mark Howland uses light and shadows to a similar unsettling effect and Sound Designer Jack C Arnold disturbs us with an array of effects from a growling atmospheric bass to the tinkly Muzak used to keep the patients calm. And I must give praise to Heidi Bryan and Vanessa Davis who handle the costumes, wigs, hair and make-up. Their attention to detail is admirable, whether it is the motley collection of sports clothing the patients have assembled for their impromptu baseball game or Nurse Ratched’s foundation garments which appear to be steel plated.

The play is a serious melodrama and director Michael Buffong completely understands the medium in which he is working. He handles the structure of the play with aplomb, manipulating the climaxes and the various coups de theatre with consummate skill.

Being a melodrama, the characters on the page have limitations. Nurse Ratched is evil because she is evil and McMurphy is a rebel because he is a rebel – the play is only marginally concerned to investigate why.

It says a great deal for the ability and commitment of the actors that every one of them creates a real, meaningful personality which holds our attention for every moment they are on stage. And for some characters that is no easy task. Chief Bromden (Thomas Renshaw) spends much of his time standing staring into space while even more challengingly, the lobotomised Ruckley (Paul Joseph) must writhe and twitch throughout without a single word to utter. And yet he manages to convey a whole array of emotional states and a web of relationships, all filtered through a damaged brain.

In this paean of praise one final thing stands out: the fact that all concerned with the production contribute marvellously to the whole. Here is a group of professionals who talk to one another!

A very powerful theatrical experience definitely not to be missed

Cast: Chief Bromden: Thomas Renshaw, Aide Warren: Howard Saddler, Aide Williams: Sydney Smith, Nurse Ratched: Catherine Russell, Nurse Flinn/Sandra: Rebecca Bainbridge, Dale Harding: Michael Bertenshaw, Billy Bibbiit: Alexander Campbell, Scanlon: Tony Guilfoyle, Cheswick: Wayne Cater, Martini: Miltos Yerolemou, Ruckley: Paul Joseph, Randle McMurphy: Michael Beckley, Dr. Spivey/Aide Turkle: Jonathan Tafler, Candy Starr: Grace Carter.
Creative Team: Director: Michael Buffong, Designer: Ellen Cairns, Lighting Designer: Mark Howland, Sound Designer: Jack C Arnold, Fight Director: Bret Yount, Costume Supervisor: Heidi Bryan, Wigs, Hair and Make-up Supervisor: Vanessa Davis, Dialect Coach: Emma Vane, Company Stage Manager: Brad Fitt, Deputy Stage Manager: Katie Browning, Assistant Stage Managers: Stephen Dix and Melanie Wing, Casting: Juliette Stark, Rehearsal Photography: Pamela Raith, Production Photography: Jonathan Keenan

2011-10-21 16:41:05

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