Friday, 2 June 2017

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, June 1, 2017 ***1/2

Adapted by Dale Wasserman from Ken Kesey’s novel
Presented by Monster Media 
Southbank Theatre, The Lawler, until June 11, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Thurs June 1, 2017
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Friday June 2, 2017, and later in print. KH
 Michael Robins, Eddie Muliaumaseali'l GWPhotography
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, adapted in 1963 by Dale Wasserman from Ken Kesey’s novel, is both funny and heartbreaking as we witness the absurdities and horrors facing a disparate group of men in a psychiatric ward in 1960s America.

Randle P. McMurphy (Michael Robins) thinks he is getting an easy ride when, instead of facing a five-month stretch in prison, after convincing a judge to commit him to a psych institution.

With his gutsy, provocative and blokey behaviour, McMurphy livens up the fellas in the ‘acute’ ward with some low-key gambling, boisterous basketball games, secret partying and simple disobedience that make McMurphy an enemy of Nurse Ratched (Catherine Glavicic) who controls the ward.

Carl J. Sorheim’s dynamic and spirited production, with its cast of 16, is set in a clinical, black and white hospital ward (Sarah Tulloch designer) and focuses on McMurphy’s relationships with the other patients, and on his own blindness to his precarious circumstances.

Robins gives a muscular performance as the unwitting hero, McMurphy, playing him with tenacity and audacity as well as a vigorous, adolescent playfulness. We want him to win, to beat Nurse Ratched and to save his newfound pals from their slide into institutionalisation and despair.

Nurse Ratched is the villain and, because of her bullying and manipulation, can never be likeable, but Glavicic’s portrayal reveals Ratched’s misguided view that her unyielding, control freak behaviour is in her patients’ best interests.

 Michael Robins, Catherine Glavicic, Paul Morris GWPhotography

Eddie Muliaumaseali’l is velvet-voiced and dignified as American Indian Chief Bromben, who seems to be catatonic and addresses the audience only in lyrical, internal monologues, until McMurphy brings him to life again.

Nicholas Denton is boyish and sympathetic as stuttering Billy Bibbit who is ruled by his mother’s critical opinion of him, and Troy Larkin is credible and dapper as Harding, an intellectual, Southern gentleman who is intimidated by his voluptuous wife.

The mischief, rebellion and hope of recovery of Act One transforms in Act Two into insidious control and menace as we realise that McMurphy’s playtime is at an end.

Ratched tames her patients by enforcing rigid ‘ward rules’, belittling them and removing their privileges, and she controls disobedience with frightening threats of electric shock treatment or worse – lobotomy.

This is a funny and moving production and Wasserman’s stage play is as compelling as Kesey’s ground breaking novel and the 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson, but it is the desperation of the men in the psych ward that haunts the audience after we leave the theatre.

By Kate Herbert 
Josh Futcher, Troy Larkin, Eddie Muliaumaseali'l, Michael Robins, GWPhotography

Carl J Sorheim - Director
Sarah Tulloch - Designer
Jason Crick - Lighting
Robert John Sedky -Sound Designer
Lyndal Grant - Fight Director

Michael Robins - Randle P. McMurphy
Eddie Muliaumaseali’i - Chief Bromden
Catherine Glavicic - Nurse Ratched

Nicholas Denton - Billy Bibbit
Troy Larkin - Dale Harding
Josh Futcher  - Scanlon
David Gannon - Martini
Kostas Ilias - Cheswick
Seton Pollock -  Dr. Spivey & Ruckley 
Stephanie Lillis - Nurse Finn
Jack Dixon-Gunn -Aide Williams
Ben Sofowara - Aide Turkle
Paul Morris - Aide Warren
Angela Scundi - Candy Starr
Natalie Bond - Sandra

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