One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

3.00

Manic Slater can't stop emotions flying the nest

Seldom can a show have attracted so much hype or so many column inches before inviting in the press than
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest . With a handful of the stand-up comedians who scored such success with
Twelve Angry Men in last year's Edinburgh Fringe, director Guy Masterson embarked on Dale Wasserman's 60s classic drama. He soon withdrew, and when illness struck it seemed the show might be jinxed.

Seldom can a show have attracted so much hype or so many column inches before inviting in the press than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest . With a handful of the stand-up comedians who scored such success with Twelve Angry Men in last year's Edinburgh Fringe, director Guy Masterson embarked on Dale Wasserman's 60s classic drama. He soon withdrew, and when illness struck it seemed the show might be jinxed.

But it's up and running and, with Christian Slater following in the footsteps of another notorious Hollywood hellraiser, Jack Nicholson, the part of psychotic drifter Randall P McMurphy has an effective combination of insouciance and manic energy.

The matronly "Rat-shit" - as McMurphy playfully addresses the all-powerful Big Nurse Ratched, accustomed to calling the shots - has met her match and the cowed "acutes" and bullied "chronics" have found a staunch ally. Frances Barber is certainly no "angel of mercy", her face as starched as her uniform, her smile emerges like a red gash across an expressionless mask.

When the mask starts to slip, the temperature starts to rise in Terry Johnson and Tamara Harvey's production. Barber has a compelling stage presence, disturbing in her seamless switch between nice and nasty as she goads and provokes McMurphy into the violence that will be his nemesis.

As McMurphy helps his fellow inmates in this isolated "therapeutic community" to find their collective voice, Brendan Dempsey's haunted Chief Bromden comes compellingly to life. His vivid imagination is brilliantly illustrated in his reminiscences, colourfully evoked against a background of airy panpipes, seductive birdcalls, and, for leaping salmon, swirling lighting.

Though the focus of attention as the irrepressible, rebellious McMurphy, Slater supplies plenty of opportunities for the rest of cast to respond sympathetically and characterfully with all the quirks and eccentricities they can muster. Mackenzie Crook is unaffectedly touching as the stammering virgin Billy Bibbitt, finally discovering that there's more to life than his mother and his medication, helped by the uninhibited Candy (Lizzie Roper). But it's hard to sense the gamut of emotions the text runs through and it all feels slightly superficial, more like a playschool in its comic plausibility than a psychiatric ward.

There's no strong sense that men have been trapped in time and place, physically and mentally cramped, all too readily acquiescing to a petty authority and ward policy. Perhaps, through making some cuts, an element of vital tension has been lost with the result that, as we spiral towards the tragic and optimistic conclusion of what should be a tougher and more substantial story, we're observing rather than involved. And when the emancipation from the straitjacketed confines of the restrictive regime finally occurs, instead of being exhilarating, Bromden's show of strength with the fuse control box is about as effective as a damp squib.

To 30 August, 1.45pm Returns only, 0131 226 2428. Then at the Gielgud Theatre London, W1; 0870 890 1105

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?