ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
at Brentwood Theatre
The set is stylish and bold – white furniture, chequered floor, opaque plastic screens, nurses' station dominating from centre stage – and this Psychiatric Institution is peopled with the angry, the inadequate and the introverted.
The cast of assorted "loonies" was the great strength of Amy Clayton's production for Early Doors. Their characterization was impressively sustained, meticulously observed. Restless, short-fused Cheswick [Paul Sparrowham], halting, immature Billy [Gary Ball] fussy, delusional Martini [Martin Harris], tense, destructive Scanlon [Andy Gilett] all excellently done, as was William Wells' blustering Brit, who is deposed by the newcomer, but finally gets to wear his rebellious hat.
Justin Cartledge was the legendary McMurphy; not as charismatic or as boisterous as some, but an affable, reasonable guy, feigning psychosis for his own ends, a telling contrast with the tics and traumas of the institutionalised inmates. His dialogue with Ray Johnson's touchingly portrayed Chief, and their final moments together, were high points of the evening, quieter counterpoints to the big set-pieces like the football match and the party.
The Big Nurse, appalled by all McMurphy stands for, was Julie Salter, efficient, chilly and implacable. Of the other staff, I was struck in particular by Vernon Keeble Watson's vicious Aide.
A confident, polished ensemble piece, enhanced by video inserts for the ECT sequence, and by carefully chosen tracks from The Four Tops, Bowie, The Stones ...