Monster Media’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is widely considered one of the greatest works of all time. The original novel which inspired this whole series of works was released in 1962 (and was so resonant that it has survived multiple attempts at being banned), before being recreated into a Broadway play the following year. The story then went on to inspire the iconic Jack Nicholson movie which had a clean sweep at that year’s Oscars and has gone down in history as one of the greatest films of all time. Now, it is back in Melbourne with a phenomenal new production by Monster Media.
The moment audience members walk into The Lawler at Melbourne Theatre Company’s Southbank Theatre, they are immersed in the hazy crossover of pharmaceuticals and prison that is a mental hospital somewhere in America in the mid-1960s. Greeted by a nurse with their ‘medication’ and brusquely directed to sit down by a series of guards, the production begins the minute the doors open rather than waiting for the curtain to go down which immediately entwines the audience with the story that is about to unfold in front of them.
For those who are unfamiliar with any of the incarnations of this story, Cuckoo’s Nest takes place in a state mental hospital and explores the concept of influence. Who is responsible for the actions of others? And what sway can one person have to change the behaviour and perception within the microcosm of society which has been created. In fact, it is much like watching a psychological study unfold. Especially between the two leads Randle P. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.
Catherine Glavicic is the stand out in this production for her portrayal of Nurse Ratched as a mandated leader who revels in the power that she holds over her group of willing captives. Glavicic portrays a Nurse Ratched who isn’t easily thrown by attempts from the patients to rattle her which makes her impending demise and sudden break at the end of the production all the more shocking and her final action completely understandable to earn back the control which she unwillingly lost through a surprise death.
The newest patient Randle P. McMurphy is her sparring partner throughout the show and through Mike Robins’ choice to play up the simple and ‘rough around the edges’ elements of this character it is easy to distract the audience from the influence that McMurphy actually has on the final outcome of the play. But the extent of that influence isn’t up for me to disclose because that is my own interpretation of the series of events, that is up to each individual audience member. While Nurse Ratched may be literally left with blood on her hands towards the end of the play, it is up to each of you to decide who the metaphorical bloodied hands belong to.
Supporting these two is a true ensemble of a cast who manage to highlight the range of different elements which join together to create this mock society. From the paranoia of Josh Futcher’s Scanlon and the reserved insight of Eddie Muliaumaseali’i’s Chief Bromden, to the naivety of Kostas Ilias’ Ceswick and the condemned silence of Seton Pollock’s Ruckley, there are a spectrum of different approaches which each manage to make their mannerisms stand out from the crowd in their own unique way.
Speaking of mannerisms, David Gannon’s Martini is probably the most loveable of the characters providing a way for the production to further immerse the audience into the action. Cursed with seeing people who aren’t there, various audience members are uniquely involved in his delusions as he includes them in rounds of poker, a basketball game and even a conga line. Plus, his ownership over always setting out chairs for new guests is very endearing.
The two stand outs amongst this truly ensemble cast are Troy Larkin as Dale Harding who plays this knowledgable character almost in the role of a prophet of things to come before he gets caught up in McMurphy’s frenzy and Nicholas Denton as Billy Bibbit. He nails the youthful innocence of this young kid who can’t deal with his mother’s attention and affection and manages to provide the audience with an easy entryway into really living his terrifying view of the world and providing an understanding as to why he has locked himself away. This all makes his final action even more sudden and terrifying as it felt like he had finally overcome his fears before they all came crashing down.
For fans of psychological thrillers and those with a penchant for understanding human behaviour, this is the show to buy tickets to NOW. This full ensemble, especially with the performances of the hospital staff and call girls, immerses the audience in what can only be described as a Zimbardo-like experiment providing insight into the ways influence and questioning can truly change a society.
One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest is only playing until June 11 at MTC’s The Lawler Theatre. For more information and to snatch up your tickets now visit www.mtc.com.au