On the back of a sell-out season earlier this year, Little Red Productions has reprised One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Bakehouse Theatre. Featuring music, dance and well paced stage drama, this production is a raw, edgy and highly energetic adaptation of the Ken Kesey classic novel. With the crew dispersing at the end of the year, this is Adelaide’s last chance to experience their loud, emotive and truly unique piece.
“We did performances early this year at the Bakehouse with a wonderful response. We just couldn’t put it to bed, so we decided we’d put on another five shows,” explains Director Jamie Hibbert.
Set in a mental hospital, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest follows the journey of Randle McMurphy (Aled McEwen), who convinces a court he is mentally unstable as a way of escaping a prison sentence. Rebellious and spirited, McMurphy challenges the dictatorial ward Nurse Ratched (Nicole Laughton) and on the way, inspires his ward-mates to challenge the perceived barriers they make for themselves. The balanced group of performers features Olivia Cirocco as the gentle Chief, Sean Conneely as the insecure Bibbit, David Sandison as the pessimistic Harding, Claire Robertson as the mentally immature Martini, and Bridie Rawson as the paranoid Cheswick. Under the influence of McMurphy, this group of ward patients realise their potential and “fly the coop”.
Conscious of portraying mental illness with sensitivity, Hibbert and the crew have focused their characterisations on the fears and inhibitions society and individuals place upon our own potential. Conneely explains, “right from the start, we said we did not want to stereotype mental illness and I don’t think we have.”
It’s hard to comprehend this ensemble is a group of year 12 drama students from Pulteney Grammar School. Energy oozes from every performer, who has been skilfully directed to convey different elements of vulnerability or power. As an ensemble, they are a cohesive and powerful cast with maturity in their collective performance that defies their age and experience.
“Half of us were born into drama and have been here since year ten and the other half of us only started this year, but you can’t even tell,” says Cirocco.
In a stroke of artistic brilliance, Hibbert has used music and dance as a way of expressing characterisations on the stage. It’s also “a way of engaging a modern audience”, she explains. You’ll hear music from Silverchair and Florence and the Machine as the performers’ movements convey characters. The results is a stirring and effective way of progressing the plot and setting a moody tone.
There is an abundance of action, characterisation and emotion on stage. You’ll be awestruck, emotionally heart-strung, and amazed and exhausted after watching this show. McEwen admits it’s a tiring and emotional experience on stage too.
“We just go back stage together quietly at the end of a show. We don’t even need to say anything, we just sit and look at each other,” he says.
Staying true to the themes of the novel is the “massive tug of war between these two [Randle McMurphy and Nurse Ratched]. Everyone else just gets caught in the crossfire,” explains Hibbert.
“People have asked us after seeing the show, so who do you think won? We don’t really know either,” admits Cirocco. Limited seats are still available during their December season for you to make your own conclusion.
Reviewed by Bree Downs-Woolley
Venue: Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas St, Adelaide
Season: 17 – 21 December 2013
Duration: 90 minutes
Tickets: $10 – $20
Bookings: Book at Trybooking.com/DOSB
Image credit: Jaypics Photography