ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST
King Edward VI School, Chelmsford
Ken Kesey's novel is best known in the Jack Nicholson cinema version. On stage, it presents challenges to actors and to audience, the artifice of the stage showing up some of the shortcomings of plot and character development.
So a bold choice for a school production, but one which paid off, I felt, allowing a huge cast to extend their talents and to work together to create an impressive ensemble piece.
David Woolford charmed his way through McMurphy's disgraceful behaviour; always on the move, everyone's buddy, making waves and inciting riot. A memorable performance. Amongst the other characters, three stood out. Chris Smith's self-harming mother's boy, shy, stuttering and totally believable. Jimmy Murphy, as Harding, the “head bull-goose loony” deposed by McMurphy's arrival, with his nervous, insecure, body language, and Robert Wickham's Chief, a tall, imposing Native American whose dreams punctuate the play.
The manipulative, sadistic Nurse Ratched was confidently played by Carlotta Manzi Davies.
But every cast member gave the production 100%, always in character, always watchable, haunted faces and lunatic hair.
The white walls, the strip lights, the echoing ward and the piped Muzak all helped sustain an edgy, volatile atmosphere. As McMurphy says, as good as any movie.
production photos by Sam Brown