After a fraught few weeks in rehearsal, during which original director Guy Masterson withdrew from the production and Slater himself contracted chicken pox, forcing the cancellation of several performances during a pre-London run at the Edinburgh festival, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest had its delayed press night at the Gielgud on 16 September (previews from 3 September). The limited season was due to conclude on 4 December 2004 but will now continue until 1 January 2005, when Slater must return to the US to fulfil his filming commitments.
Commenting on the show’s extension, Slater - who plays rebel RP McMurphy, a part immortalised by Jack Nicholson in Milos Forman’s Oscar-winning 1975 film - said: “I'm having a great time in England. The show is so much fun for all of us in the cast that we are thrilled to continue with it to 2005.”
Producer Nica Burns added: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has broken box office records at the Gielgud Theatre. It has won a new audience and receives a fantastic response every night. It is terrific that Christian and the cast are able to extend and give more people the opportunity to see the show". (See “The Producers: Nica Burns”, Features, 11 Oct 2004)
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.
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.
Terry Johnson and Tamara Harvey assumed co-directors’ duties after Masterson’s withdrawal. 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