Arts & Entertainment

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Photo: Marnya Rothe

Many people know the Ken Kesey bestseller, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest through its adaptation into the multi award winning 1975 film starring Jack Nicholson. However, a year after the book was first published (1962) it was adapted successfully for stage and has continued to be produced as a play ever since.

Sport For Jove will breath it into life again next month for a short season at the Seymour Centre, with Anthony Gooley playing the cunning, incorrigible RP McMurphy.

The story takes place in a the early 1960s in an American mental hospital. McMurphy, a chronic criminal, has pleaded insanity to avoid prison and instead serve time in what he mistakenly believes will be a much cushier environment. But in the stark, windowless institution, the sharp witted, high spirited McMurphy is frustrated by his less mentally capable inmates and his sub-ordinance to the austere Nurse Ratched.

“It’s a psychological battle between the two of them…it’s sort of a chess match, a one-upmanship,” says Gooley of the tense psychological battle between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.

He describes the story as being “thrilling with amazing confrontational moments.” Although the medical practices described are outdated now, Gooley believes the play remains relevant today as a commentary on systemic oppression and how society treats those perceived to be “different.” It also questions the very definition of sanity.

Using a minimal set and certain theatrical elements, designer Isabel Hudson aims to create an abstract, surreal mood. Director Kim Hardwick adds to the sense of strangeness by casting Wendy Strehlow in the male role of Cheswick.

Gooley acknowledges the indelible impression made by Nicholson in the movie version, and prefers to work with it, rather than against it.

“His performance in that film is so iconic and [Nicholson] is such an idiosyncratic kind of personality…he so embodied the character that if you try and be too different then you start to become something other than RP McMurphy.”

Aug 3-19, 7:30pm. Seymour Centre, Cnr City Rd & Cleveland St, Chippendale. $25−$44+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.seymourcentre.com

By Rita Bratovich.