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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Garrick, London

By Edwin Wilson

  One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest at the Garrick

For the actor Christian Slater, playing the lead in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest has become a cottage industry. He played the character Randle P. McMurphy in a production at the Edinburgh Festival in the summer of 2004, and that production was brought to the West End for a successful run in the 2004-2005 season. Now, in the spring of 2006, he is playing the role in another London production.

The play, adapted by Dale Wasserman from the novel by Ken Kesey, opened on Broadway in 1963 with Kirk Douglas in the lead role. That production was not a success, but an off-Broadway version which opened ten years later ran for over 1,000 performances. Following that, Jack Nicholson played the starring role in the film. Now, Mr. Slater has established his franchise in London.

Cuckoo’s Nest is one of those plays in which a maverick outsider comes into the world of a group of misfits who have established a routine for themselves and turns things upside down, usually with disastrous results. The most trenchant example in American theater is Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. In Cuckoo’s Nest, Randle McMurphy enters the psychiatric ward of a group of patients ruled with an iron hand by Nurse Ratched. McMurphy is a convicted gambler who fakes being psychotic in order to avoid hard time in a prison. He challenges Nurse Ratched as she has never been challenged before.

Critics in London are virtually unanimous in proclaiming that Slater has made the role his own. And he has. The play is dated and his fellow actors are not all on his level, but his manic energy, his joyful sense of subversion, his intensity, all coalesce into a magnetic performance and that is enough for his large group of fans.


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