Hollywood’s Christian Slater makes his West End debut tonight (Thursday 16 September 2004, previews from 3 September) in the much-anticipated – and much-fraught - revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the Gielgud Theatre.

Slater (pictured in character) - who plays rebel RP McMurphy, a part immortalised by Jack Nicholson in Milos Forman’s Oscar-winning 1975 film – was forced to cancel several performances during last month’s pre-London run at the Edinburgh Fringe festival after suffering a severe bout of chicken pox (See News, 6 Aug 2004).

That setback followed the dramatic withdrawal of original director Guy Masterson, who was replaced, amidst rumours of backstage clashes, by co-directors Terry Johnson and Tamara Harvey (See News, 27 Jul 2004). At the time, producer Nica Burns, commented: “Producing a play is always exciting, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has certainly been my most exciting theatrical experience to date!”

Cuckoo's Nest is set in a mental institution where the fierce Nurse Ratched rules over the patients in fear of the brutal treatment dealt out in the 'Shock-Shop'. Into this world walks McMurphy, a larger-than-life gambler who has faked psychosis in order to avoid the drudgery of a working prison.

Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel was adapted for the stage by Dale Wasserman. The play premiered in 1963 on Broadway, where Kirk Douglas starred as McMurphy. The film version won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Nicholson and Best Actress for Louise Fletcher who played Nurse Ratched.

Though best known for his screen success, Slater, whose father was a Broadway veteran, has regularly returned to his theatrical roots, most recently in Macbeth and the Tony Award-winning Sideman, opposite Sopranos actress Edie Falco. Slater's films include The Name of the Rose, Heathers, True Romance, Untamed Heart, Broken Arrow, Pump Up The Volume, Bed of Roses, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Interview with the Vampire.

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 Brendan Dempsey as Chief Bromden. The production also features five comics - Owen O'Neill, Ian Coppinger, Dave Johns, Gavin Robertson and Phil Nichol – as well as Felix Dexter, Lucy Porter, Lizzie Roper, Katherine Jakeways, Stephen K Amos and Tim Ahern.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is designed by Katy Tuxford, with costumes by Dagmar Morrell. It’s produced by Nica Burns for Theatreshare, Max Weitzenhoffer and Ian Lenagan. Prior to the West End transfer, the production ran at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms, from 6 to 30 August 2004, as part of the 58th annual Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival (See News, 10 Jun 2004).

- by Terri Paddock