"Not what you would expect"
by Colin Snell for remotegoat on 22/08/13

If, as I suspect, most of us were expecting a re-telling of Kesey's iconic 60s novel with a central performance akin to Jack Nicholson's then there is likely to be some disappointment in Fourth Monkey's adaptation. But then this is the Fringe and is best approached with an open mind and an appreciation of what an intelligent, dynamic company is prepared to do with their material. The story follows a recent admission to a mental institution; enigmatic R.P McMurphy's appearance in the ward(originally for statutory rape of a 15 year old girl)is no longer applicable as 'he' is now a 'she' in this production. In fact, most of the inmates, with the exception of two, are played by females. Not everything sits easily as a result of this gender change but McMurphy's ability to cause havoc from her first day, by antagonising head administrative nurse Nurse Ratched (played by a female) with determination for constantly breaking the rules and upsetting established routines is still the focus of the piece. The final moments see her organising a party, where she brings in her prostitute friends and persuades one of the women to take one of the (male)inmate's virginity.The ending lacks a little in terms of dramatic and theatrical interest in the way it is staged, but there is no doubting the integrity and intelligence of the performers and the impact that the production has ultimately. For a brief moment I was transported back to an episode of 'Prisoner Cell Block H' but soon was drawn into the world inhabited by the range of dysfunctional characters with a powerful and quietly menacing performance by Nurse Ratched and a superlative one by R.P.McMurphy. The stark white set, the sound track and lighting served to isolate the inmates leaving us, the audience, almost as voyeurs and feeling very uncomfortable. It does not make for easy viewing. The production is sharply directed with an impressive ensemble very much able to offer a new spin on Kesey's novel. It might not be what you would expect but it certainly encapsulates the adventure and spirit of the fringe admirably.

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