One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Sisterly guest post, crossposted here.

20140702_101458 Plakat einer flog OS-web

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn;
Wire, briar, limber lock,
Three geese in a flock.
One flew east,
And one flew west,
And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.


One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Einer flog über das Kuckucksnest)

By Dale Wasserman

Directed by Zeno Stanek

Cast: Klaus Huhle, Horst Heiss, Elke Hartmann, Karl Ferdinand Kratzl, Karin Verdorfer, Christian Strasser, Robert Kolar, Daniel Wagner, Richard Maynau, Alexander T.T. Mueller, Simon Jaritz, Konstantin Gerlach, Marcus J. Carney, Doris Kotrba, Siegfried Auerböck, Karl Litzenberger, Hermine Ritter, Katharina Bauer, Brigitte Haumer, Daniela Romstorfer, Alexander Koy, Caroline Weber, Peter Dworzak, Max Sulzenauer, Sophie Isermann, Christian Paul and others

Synopsis: The protagonist is a wildly funny rebel who feigns insanity in order to finish his prison sentence in a mental ward rather than a work farm. However, when he meets the fellow members of the asylum, he discovers that they make a lot more sense than the restrictive and conformist establishment, embodied by a control-freak named Nurse Ratched.

Festspiele Stockerau, Tuesday 1st July, 2014

This is a really tough one to write, not only because it’s an English review for a play performed in German, but also because I’m not quite sure how to summarize the evening.

The Summer Theatre Festival in Stockerau (a small town in Lower Austria, about a half hour outside Vienna) celebrates its 50th anniversary this season with Dale Wasserman’s play “One flew over the Cukoo’s Nest”. The festival returned to spoken theatre last year after a 15 year long “musical period” under former Artistic Director Alfons Haider. While I am not the biggest fan of Haider (he’s an Austrian actor and TV presenter and really really annoying) and his often quite cheesy musical productions (which always featured him as the lead and were usually laden with crowd-pleasing innuendo and little jabs at current affairs), I must confess that I still preferred his productions to the more “artistic” approach of current Artistic Director Zeno Stanek. I think summer open air theatre should be either Shakespeare or light-hearted comedies/musicals. And judging from the audience reactions at the opening night party I am not alone in my opinion. I spoke with a few people afterwards who all shared my opinion that while you didn’t have to like Haider as a person, he still knew how to put on shows that actually got people to buy tickets and be entertained.

I’m usually not the kind of person to attend an opening night, let alone the party afterwards. However since my friend Brigitte, who lives in Stockerau, is an extra in this production (as she was in last year’s “The Visit” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt), I went to support her and to have a chance to chat with her afterwards, since we don’t see each other that often. The opening night audience is a curious beast. While in London and other cities Press Night is usually the night where the celebrities show up, in Austria it’s always opening night. And so I found myself in the midst of artists, socialites, politicians and leading figures auf economy, with said people giving interview after interview for the various press outlets present. Fortunately I’m quite good at dodging cameras. The party afterwards was quite relaxed and the wild boar sausages were divine.

In case you are wondering – all this faffing about is just my way of not having to write about the actual production. Because I can’t think of anything substantial to write. There were quite a few things that irked me, first and foremost the performance of Klaus Huhle as Randle P. McMurphy. And I don’t even have the excuse of comparing him to Jack Nicholson, because I’ve actually never seen the film. Elke Hartmann was quite good as Nurse Ratched. The undisputable highlights for me were Konstantin Gerlach as Billy Bibbit and Simon Jaritz as Dale Harding. All other members of the ensemble delivered solid, yet unspectacular performances. The production received politely enthusiastic applause, but no standing ovations, which would have been grossly exaggerated anyways. All in all it was a semi-entertaining evening, it didn’t rain, and there were very good sausages at the end.