Theatre in Wales

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At Theatr Clwyd

Clwyd Theatr Cymru- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , Theatr Clwyd , February 21, 2004
McMurphy's task for the day is to clean the patients' toilet. "I'm gonna scrub the urinal so clean you'll need dark glasses to use it," he declares.

Terry Hands stages this revival on a set so brilliantly white you may need dark glasses to watch it. Ken Kesey's beat generation parable is most closely associated with its classic 1975 movie incarnation. But Dale Wasserman's stage adaptation emphasises the theatricality of the work, making the audience party to one giant group therapy session.

Few playwrights since Shakespeare have been willing to confront the subject of insanity head on. But Wasserman's text explores this subject with sensitivity both harrowing and hilarious by turn. "We are all psycho-ceramics here, the cracked pots of society," one of the characters explains, introducing the notion that the institution is a world where people are relieved of "the terrible burden of sanity".

Hands fires up some dangerously high-voltage performances to match. Robert Perkins' McMurphy is the principal live-wire, a charismatic charlatan with Christ-like overtones who leads the rebellion in the face of Nurse Ratched, commandingly played by Kerry Peers as a matronly Medusa in a crunchy white uniform.

Grahame Fox deserves respect for standing motionless in a cruciform position for hours and Dyfrig Morris's mute Indian has the audience hanging on his every grunt.

Some of the most consistently exciting ensemble theatre in Britain is currently being produced by Hands' Clwyd company. Here it produces a piece of work in which everything, from the acting and the design to McMurphy's toilets, is dazzling.

Reviewed by: Alfred Hickling

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