Playwright lifts ban to keep village version of 'Cuckoo' flying

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The Independent Culture

A village amateur dramatic society has won permission from an American playwright to stage a play that was originally banned because of a West End production of the same story.

A village amateur dramatic society has won permission from an American playwright to stage a play that was originally banned because of a West End production of the same story.

The part-time thespians of Alrewas in Staffordshire were busy rehearsing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when they were told the show could not go on because it might interfere with a star-studded version 120 miles away.

After a successful premiere in April at the village hall in Alrewas - population 3,500 - the cast were getting ready for a three-night run at the Garrick theatre in Lichfield when they were told that performing rights had been refused because of the production at London's Gielgud theatre.

"When we contacted the agents they said, 'No, you can't do it; rights have been withdrawn for the whole of the country,'" Paula Dumolo, the director of the Alrewas play, said.

"We were devastated when we thought we weren't going to be able to perform it," Ms Dumolo, 46, a nurse, said. "We had booked the Garrick, tickets had gone on sale, advertising was just about to go out."

She did not give up, however, e-mailing an appeal for help to Dale Wasserman, the Arizona playwright who adapted Ken Kesey's novel for the stage.

Ms Dumolo said: "I never really expected a reply, so I was astonished when I got an e-mail from the playwright himself [within hours of her message] giving us the performing rights to his script."

Wassermann also contacted his agents to tell them to grant performing rights to the village society. The copyright agents have since lifted the embargo on all productions of the play outside London. The Alrewas version of the story, featuring Tony Wilson, a sales executive, as McMurphy and Joy Carlisle, a teacher, as Nurse Ratched, was "very good", Ms Dumolo said, but, she admitted, not quite in the league of the West End version, which stars Christian Slater and Frances Barber.

"We really didn't consider we were in competition with them," she said. Nevertheless, when her three-day run in Lichfield finishes on 9 October, she will be going to London to see how the play has been interpreted there.

"I'm really interested to go and see the London show. I want to see how it measures up to ours," she said.

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