THE lunatics are taking over the asylum, or at least the theatre, in Hasland this week – and by the end of Hasland Theatre Company’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I was wondering who was saner, patients or hospital staff.
But then that’s what the novel, the play and the later film version are all about.
Heather Davies, directing for HTC for the first time, has assembled a large, mainly male cast who portray the staff and inmates of a psychiatric institution in the kind of detail, variety and depth which makes a mere audience member back away lest we’re next for the ‘therapy’.
A small, close ‘therapeutic community’ is kept under control with the help of medication: nervy Harding (Dave Banks); aggressive Cheswick and Scanlon (David Brooks and Andrew Davie); delusional Martini (Gary Keeling); stammering, cowering Billy (Steve Cowley); almost comatose Ruckly (Tom Bannister). Chief Bromden (Peter Thornton) is apparently catatonic, but the dreams he recounts throw light on the institution’s methods.
In control is Nurse Ratched (Nicky Beards), pure steel under the calm, deliberate surface.
Enter Randle Patrick McMurphy (Rob Dean in swaggering, ebullient mode).
Abetted by sexy, flamboyant Candy (Olivia Brooks), he throws an emotional hand grenade into the community, encouraging them to believe in themselves and stand up to Ratched’s grim authority.
It all ends in tears and tragedy, just like the book and the film, but with a few laughs and useful lessons along the way. And for Hasland Theatre Company, this production has to count as one of their most powerful achievements.
It’s at the Storforth Lane Playhouse till Saturday.
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