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“We are psycho-ceramics, the cracked pots of humanity.”
Jenny King for The Touring Consortium

by DALE WASSERMAN
Based on the novel by KEN KESEY
designed by Hayden Griffin
lighting by Andy Phillips
starring Mike McShane,
Isla Blair and Danny Webb

Life’s not much fun at the State Mental Hospital under the iron rule of Nurse Ratched. But things are about to change; a new patient has arrived with an attitude that could blow the Institute of Psychology apart.

Dale Wasserman’s adaptation of the novel for the stage in 1963 cleverly translates this rich, black comedy into an ultimately uplifting plea for the rights of individual liberty.

As Group Therapy gives way to gambling, and parties take the place of pills and piety, the maverick McMurphy is set on a collision course with the authorities.

This hilarious and moving play is both a joyous celebration of human potential, and a deeply affecting ode to the outsider. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an unforgettable classic of modern theatre.

Mike McShane (“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” “Robin, Prince of Thieves”) played Chief Bromden, with Isla Blair (“The House of Cards,” “A Touch of Frost”) as Nurse Ratched, and Danny Webb (“Venus Hunters,” “Aliens 3”) as McMurphy.

The tour was accompanied by a programme of education and community events to complement the production. In addition there was a free resource pack available with every school booking.

The tour of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was accompanied by our hugely popular Education & Outreach Programme offering a diverse range of activities for schools and the community.

Led by Associate Director, Neale Birch, the education sessions provided a rare opportunity for students and members of the local community to work directly with actors, the creative team and members of the production staff.

“Superbly presented, high quality work that is absolutely relevant to the modern curriculum requirements. The company inform, entertain and inspire, expertly combining valuable educational expertise with the thrill and magic of live theatre”
Sue Morley, New Victoria Theatre Woking
PSE & Citizenship

The Touring Consortium’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and accompanying Education & Outreach Programme offered excellent opportunities for cross curriculum study, in particular PSE and Citizenship (Year 10 upwards). Designed to meet PSE curriculum requirements, we offered students the chance to attend an out-of-school activity; participate in group workshops or discussions; meet professional actors and production staff; experience working practically; and develop key skills of communication. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an excellent vehicle for addressing Citizenship, looking at themes of justice and discrimination, law observance, rights and responsibilities, democratic systems, social relationships, mental health and self-image.

Once again, we produced our immensely popular teacher’s resource pack which was available free of charge with every school booking.

“First there was Ken Kesey’s fictional version of the period he spent as a volunteer in a psychiatric hospital in 1960, testing out mind-altering drugs for the American military. Then there was Milos Forman’s film, which won five Oscars back in 1975. But in between there was Dale Wasserman’s stage adaptation, which began by faltering on Broadway, yet returned for a run of five years. It’s this that the Touring Consortium has opened in downtown Woking and is to take to Nottingham, Edinburgh and Norwich, among other places.

The play is well cast and performed, too. Indeed, so brisk and sharp is Michael Grandage’s production that at the time you are happy to accept the central conflict on its own terms. You root wholeheartedly for Randle McMurphy, the fun-loving tearaway who escapes prison by getting himself committed to a state hospital, and you wish that Nurse Ratched, the gauleiter of his ward, would end up electrocuted by her own clinical apparatus. And you do so even though both roles are far from melodramatically or sentimentally played by either Isla Blair, who exudes sweet if steely reason, or Danny Webb, who does not try to conceal his character’s more menacing aspects.

The result is thoroughly grippping, but it leaves you feeling thoroughly manipulated, too. After all, what is this ward, with its wire netting, its plastic chairs and its sickly-green bricks? A microcosm of American society as it was seen by the generation that put flowers in its hair and joints between its lips, demonstrated against Vietnam, and made a guru of L.D.Laing, who suggested that the mad might be sane and the sane mad.

Until the arrival of the anarchic McMurphy, the patients co-operate. They swallow their tranquillisers, agree to any guilt-mongering diagnosis or humiliating treatment the authorities say is for their good, take part in “democratic” therapy sessions that abruptly end if anyone tries to change anything, and know that the ultimate sanction is lobotomy. Big Brother, or Big Nurse, is in control of Jamie Bradley’s stuttering mother’s boy, Peter Bourke’s troubled bisexual and the rest of them.

There is even a Native American, left bereft by the “purchase” of his ancestral lands, persecuted by goonish orderlies, and rescued by McMurphy from the violence into which he has retreated. As played by Mike McShane, with slumped shoulders and downturned mouth, he is an impressively vast, imposing presence, but, as with so much in the play, his sociopolitical significance is unmissable. Let’s face it, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is at base 1960’s propaganda. Let’s admit it, it is cracking entertainment.

Benedict Nightingale, The Times. 30.9.99.

“…this is a powerful production, dominated by Danny Webb as McMurphy, a bull let loose in a china shop, bringing tragedy with the best of motives…
Isla Blair is the ice maiden in question, and her performance is a useful reminder of the price we have to pay for seeing that society’s wheels go round smoothly…
… there is a poignant performance by Jamie Bradley as the mother-fixated virgin boy Billy Bibbitt, and an interesting study in brain-washing conformity by Peter Bourke as Dale Harding, who puts the establishment case with eloquence and passion.
At the play’s heart, like a massive slab of granite in an arid landscape is Chief Bromden, the catatonic, supposedly deaf and dumb giant who brings about the tragic denouement. He could stand as a metaphor for the subdual of the American Indians. Mike McShane is a huge brooding figure, a volcano ready to erupt. His presence lingers on after you have finished staring at him, like an image imprinted on the retina”

Croydon Advertiser. 17.9.99

 “a production that demonstrates how an almost radical new view of a work can be achieved by good direction and a company of talented actors.

McShane brought a majestic air to the role and the early scenes in which he appears to be deaf and mute were mesmerising in their intensity.

Isla Blair, gave a faultless performance…

In a play that creates a kind of microcosm of a so-called democratic society in which control is absolute, this Touring Consortium production presents a disturbing sense of realism”
Kentish Times. 23.9.99.

“I hope the Consortium continues so we get regular tours into the regions with this sort of back up.”
 Thirsk School, Sheffield