UPDATED 4 AUGUST 2004: Producers announced this morning that this Friday’s first performance of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms has been cancelled. Performances will now begin on Saturday 7 August 2004, when Christian Slater will return to the cast after recovering from a bout of chicken pox (see below).

Producer Nica Burns said: “We so hoped we would be able to make the first performance, but poor Christian's chicken pox has simply been too virulent. In order to safeguard the rest of the run, we are having to take the doctor’s advice to let Christian recover for one more day. RP McMurphy is an enormous part requiring great energy.”

The rest of the Edinburgh season, to 30 August, and the transfer to the West End’s Gielgud Theatre next month are due to go ahead as planned. For anyone who has booked for this Friday’s performance, the Assembly Rooms will offer tickets to the show on an alternative Edinburgh date or will refund the booking.

The upcoming revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has hit another snag. No sooner had Terry Johnson taken over from original director Guy Masterson - who left citing personal reasons amidst rumours of backstage clashes (See News, 27 Jul 2004) - than its high-profile star Christian Slater (pictured) has had to leave rehearsals after contracting chicken pox.

Apparently, Slater caught the illness from fellow cast member Felix Dexter, who was struck down during the second week of rehearsals. It’s hoped that Slater will recover in time for the production’s first performance later this week at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms, where it runs from 6 to 30 August 2004, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. After the festival, it’s due to transfer to the West End’s Gielgud Theatre on 7 September, following previews from 3 September (See News, 21 Jul 2004).

In a press statement, producer Nica Burns said: “Producing a play is always exciting, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has certainly been my most exciting theatrical experience to date!” She added that, despite the setbacks, “Christian and company are in fantastic spirits having had an inspiring week of rehearsals with co-directors Terry Johnson and Tamara Harvey …. Christian and the company are completely committed to the play and are looking forward to their performances. Given how great the rehearsals have been, the show should be memorable – for audience and producers alike!”

Dale Wasserman’s play, adapted from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, is set in a mental institution where a showdown between Nurse Ratched and rebel newcomer Randle P McMurphy divides the other patients.

Slater is joined in the Cuckoo's Nest cast by Frances Barber (Tales from the Vienna Woods, Closer, Closer to Heaven, Insignificance) as Nurse Ratched, Mackenzie Crook (The Pirates of the Caribbean, TV's The Office) as Billy Bibbitt and Adrian Hood as Chief Bromden, as well as five of the cast of comics from Masterson’s Edinburgh Fringe 2003 production of Twelve Angry Men - Owen O'Neill, Ian Coppinger, Dave Johns, Gavin Robertson and Phil Nichol.

- by Terri Paddock