Theatre in Wales

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Torch Theatre , Torch Theatre, Milford Haven , October 24, 2002
Nursey knows best. According to the ice maiden Nurse Ratched, breaking the rules of society requires discipline therapy ‘for your own good’ – a chilling message of Orwellian institutional command and control driven home in the Torch Theatre’s brilliant production.

Chosen to celebrate the Torch’s Silver Jubilee, this is an assured staging that plays to the theatre’s strengths – director Peter Doran’s casting flair and eye for detail, designer Sean Crowley’s formidable interpretation of the lunatic asylum and Torch resident composer James Crisp’s superb music.

The humour is as black as the terrifying dark nights on the ward, the backdrop for the imposing Tim Perrin as Chief Bromden, as he gives a moving commentary on the unfolding drama. The inmates are painfully but comically aware of their own limitations.

It falls to the sophisticated Dale Harding, played with witty cynicism by Keith Woodason, to explain the intricacies of ‘ward policy’ to newcomer Randal P McMurphy. Richard Nichols is tremendous as the anti-hero McMurphy, fated to lose his battle with the authoritarian ‘Big Nurse’.

Kyra Williams gives a chilling performance as the dictatorial Nurse Ratched, her frigid politeness a veneer for her steely determination. The patients, the wild-eyed, excitable Cheswick – an ebullient, comic performance from Michael Webber; the irascible Scanlon (George Waring); Michael Neary’s endearing Martini and the achingly vulnerable Billy Bibbit, sensitively played by Gareth Pierce - jump at her command.

Paul Maddaford, Andrew Earl, Lisa Zarah, Dave Ainsworth and Laura O’Donnell play strong supporting roles.

This is an ambitious play for a provincial theatre, but this triumphant production proves that small can be beautiful and perfectly formed.

Reviewed by: Viv Stoddart, The Stage

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