One Flew Over the Cuckoo´s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo´s Nest

  • Genre
  • Stage Drama Theatre
  • Premiere19. October 2002
  • Length2:30 hod.
  • Number of reprises50
  • Final performance7. January 2006

Dramatized Novel by Ken Kesey

When Ken Kesey (1935-2001), the distinguished figure of American literature of the sixties connecting the generations of beatniks and hippies, published his novel One Flew Over the Cockoo´s Nest in 1962, i.e. forty years ago, he did not suppose it would become a bestseller well-known all over the world. Hallucinogens Kesey came into contact with as a volunteer in a governmental drug experiment and a hospital attendant at a clinic enabled him to emphathise with patients of a psychiatric clinic who are main figures of his novel. The success was great and the novel was dramatized in a year with the same success. The drama played continuously on stages all over the world was written by Dale Wasserman (born 1917), the author of libretto to a popular musical Man of La Mancha. The first night of One Flew Over the Cockoo´s Nest took place in the Cort Theatre in New Yorku in November 1963. Though, it was not a great success then (Kirk Douglas returned in the part of McMurphy on the theatrical stage after twenty years), the play started its wandering along stages all over the world in the year 1969 after Wasserman’s revision of the text and its first night in San Francisco in the year 1969 was triumphal. In the year 2001, when the drama returned to Broadway, it acquired the Tony Award for the Best Play Revival and awards of New York critique. The successful theme was treated by Miloš Forman for the third time in his film version made in the year 1975 with unforgettable Jack Nicholson acting the main part. Although the novel arose from the desire of the generation of the sixties for freedom and nonconformism, it has lost nothing of its topicality. A microworld of psychiatric clinic where Big Nurse Ratched commands patients with strange methods until the arrival of rebel McMurphy seems to be as attractive as it was before. The clinic as a prison of which nobody may escape is a venue of impressive story about abusing power, manipulation with human conscience, human fear and desire to oppose pressure, treating one’s own complexes by maltreating the weaker … In brief, One Flew Over the Cockoo´s Nest is a famous novel, film and a play full of dramatic tension given in the Brno Municipal Theatre.



  • Dale Wasserman

Directed by

  • Zdeněk Černín (také úprava)

Assistant director

  • Pavla Ptáčková


  • Luděk Kárl


  • Monika Bártová



  • David Rotter j.h.

Professional collaboration

  • Viktor Kudělka j.h.
  • Mojmír Svoboda j.h.

Náčelník Bromden

Mc Murphy

Ošetřovatel Washington

Ošetřovatel Warren

Vrchní sestra Ratchedová

Dr. Thomas

Dr. Kűner

Inspekční sestra

Candy Starrová


Dale Harding

Billy Bibbit




Whoever it may be

Jana Bohutínská 12. November 2002 zdroj Theatre News

...As the play presented in Brno is really positively traditional, which meant it relies on the text and quality acting, the second option can be applied. Why the spectator should not remember Nicholson, if “our” Havelka, with his accurate personal acting and impressing interpretation of the character, reaches minimally the same qualities as him. However, he never imitates him. He interprets McMurphy without unnecessary exhibitionism, he presents his character as a open-minded person destroyed by the repressive system.

The existence of notoriously famous movies may be dangerous for the theatre, however, this can also be an advantage. Who would know One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest without Forman? Maybe just a few connoisseurs of American literature would. Due to the film, the play will surely keep the houses full. And in Brno, not just because of it.

Havelka shines again in his Great Role

Jiří P. Kříž 7. November 2002 zdroj Právo

In the Brno City Theatre, the director Zdeněk Černín faced a problem of staging the novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kessey, well known due to the dramatisation by Dale Wasserman and especially due to Forman’s movie One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is not much possible to interpret One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest as a play of a severe power and repression, so the therapeutic sessions in the mental hospital became the key moments. Following the example of today’s media campaigns, it is possible to scandalise, disgrace or destroy anybody at any time... Just by chance, the Brno City Theatre has an ideal interpret of the rebel Randle McMurphy. Martin Havelka is almost equal to the main character of the play. Randle goes from one trouble to another, moving on the verge of prison and life in the street, escaping from the social nets full of holes, who enjoys his life to the maximum. He is an incorrigible optimist and also a fighter. The actor gave him thoughtfulness and sense of justice. However, such qualities lead him to a cruel tragic end. Havelka´s acting is excellent, convincing, ranging from astonishment and building up strength against surprisingly stubborn repression up to the explosion of resistance against the killing injustice.

The Chief Bromden interpreted by Zdeněk Junák is an accurate reflection of a suppressed Red Indian dignity and strong will to conquer back the lost freedom.

The “big” Nurse is their adversary. Interpreted by Irena Konvalinová, she is in fact a lovely kind creature (just like Louise Fletcher in the Forman’s movie), in whom the untamed Randle arises the hatred and frenetic despotism towards the mental hospital’s patients. Side by side with her, however applying physical power against defenceless creatures, goes the male nurse Washington interpreted by Petr Štěpán.

Randle´s girls Candy Starr and Sandra, willing to do anything, represent the life behind the hospital walls. Against the logic of the story, unfortunately, Pavla Ptáčková and Zuzana Kyseľová interpret them just like simply picturesque caricatures... Igor Ondříček (Taber), Viktor Skála (Dale Harding), Erik Pardus (Charles Cheswick) etc. presented excellently the characters of Randle´s suffering hospital mates.

In terms of this year’s achievements of the Brno City Theatre, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest goes hand in hand with the exceptionally well-staged Mourning becomes Electra by O’Neill, directed by Jana Kališová. Queues for the theatre tickets will surely not become any shorter.

Successful Theatre Presentation...

vž 2. November 2002 zdroj Haló noviny

Successful Theatre Presentation of One Flew Wassermann’s theatre dramatisation of the novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was one of the five premiere plays in the 8th season of the theatre. Directed by Zdeněk Černín (who also adapted the play), the actors interpreted the story from a mental hospital very well – for example Martin Havelka playing the leading part of Randle, or Zdeněk Junák interpreting the Chief Bromden, and also Irena Konvalinová as the strict Chief Nurse of the mental hospital. For the first time, the Brno City Theatre staged a play dealing with the desire to assert one’s right of freedom, personality and sense. The author of the novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kessey dealt with the human relations in the beatnik or hippie era. The new premiere is just another piece in the mosaic composing the face of one of the best contemporary theatre groups of Brno, for which a new large stage is being built next to the existing theatre building of the Brno City Theatre.

Wonderful Fools Settled in a Nest

Simona Polcarová 23. October 2002 zdroj Rovnost

The Brno Municipal Theatre decided to give the title which pronunciation catches one’s breath at the weekend as the second premiere of the season. The drama One Flew Over the Cockoo´s Nest had a taste of prohibited fruit in certain time and hardly anybody would not know its film version directed by Miloš Forman and rewarded with Oscar. Thus, it was very interesting to see how the director Zdeněk Černín would cope with the drama on a stage …

… Černín depicts masterfully scenes of the life of patients at a psychiatric clinic. Individual figures with their weak points and ticks are characterized well and described in short and exact drafts in a small space. Each patient is followed from the beginning till the end in all situations so that there is no weak point in the colourful palette where any figure would stagnate or be missing …

…Besides Martin Havelka in the title role of rebel MacMurphy, the others who cannot be overlooked are Viktor Skála acting Harding whose deep intellect quarrels with absolute inability to perceive reality, Igor Ondříček as continuously disgusted Taber raging against the whole world, Erik Pardus acting would-be reputable Cheswick and Michal Nevěčný in a likeable role of eternal sexual pervert. Last but not least, Patrik Bořecký appears in this parade of crazy figures in the part of a quiet young man Billy Bibbit, using thus completely the opportunity of presentation of a dramatic development of his Bibbit…

We will not throw out anybody, won’t we?

Josef Meszáros 21. October 2002 zdroj Scena cz

Černín´s Different Point of View

Freedom and liberty of the individual versus the mill of the system and abuse of power against a defenceless person, these are the principal topics of the novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kessey which inspired Miloš Forman’s film. Dale Wasserman created the theatre screenplay based on the novel. After being staged in the theatre Na Fidlovačce, the play has been staged in other Czech theatres, this time in the Brno City Theatre. Under the direction of Zdeněk Černín, in the Saturday first night performance on 19th October 2002, the spectators could see Martin Havelka in the role of Randle Patrick McMurphy, his adversary, the nurse Ratched, was interpreted by Irena Konvalinová, the roles of patients were interpreted by Patrik Bořecký - Billy Bibbit, Viktor Skála - Dale Harding and others. Jan Dušek, the author of the setting, stressed the contrast of the order and the freedom. On the stage sides, iron cages were placed as a symbol of oppression; the centre of the stage was left free. The director Zdeněk Černín perfectly mastered the arrangement of the chorus scenes which belong to the most impressive ones. He made some small “aberrances” – the inverted commas mean a different view or different understanding of the meaning. Černín based the whole play on the conflict of McMurphy and Ratched; he completely put aside the protagonist Chief Bromden who narrates the story in the novel. The play was presented as a harsh conflict of the system and the freedom. The aspect of freedom represented by Bromden´s narration was passed onto McMurphy who, contrary to the Chief, worships more the order of anarchy than freedom.

Such a point of view enabled to Černín to tease the spectator in a more dramatic manner. In the “mouse and cat” game, he was considerate avoiding all drastic scenes; these are described just by words. Such a “teasing” of the spectator paid off especially in the last scene, when the Chief “sets free” the McMurphy psychically deformed by the operation, and after such an euthanasia, McMurphy´s soul leaves the stage in a scene when the doors of the hospital open to an emotive music. Music was composed by David Rotter. It is a compensation of the putting the Chief aside, as it makes use of the rhythm of the Indian drums. In this moment, we can start a philosophical dispute concerning a different understanding of the freedom and the system. The rhythmic beat of the drums is a symbol of the system and order; however, it is necessary to stress that such an order is based on the nature and on the unity of man with the nature. On the other hand, the system of the nurse Ratched resembles a moving machine which destroys systematically and without consideration. Rotter composed an interesting music; besides the above-mentioned rhythm, he mastered very well the party scene using a very hard rock in order to stress the protest.

The actors Martin Havelka and Irena Konvalinová drew the attention due to their well-mastered interpreting. Randle Patrick McMurphy interpreted by Martin Havelka without any doubt belongs to those who “act exactly against the rules”. He is able to be duly extrovert and communicative. He mastered very well the scene reflecting voting on the option to watch a sports match. The conclusion of this scene became also to Irena Konvalinová. She let McMurphy to provoke her in spite of being well trained in self-control. She symbolised perfectly the adherence to the order; however, there was a lack of astuteness in her reactions. She tried to achieve it by means of a stiff expression on her face alternated with frowning, however, she did not succeed to convince the spectators as the real Nurse Ratched. Out of the whole series of patients, Dale Harding (Viktor Skála) and Billy Bibbit (Patrik Bořecký) play the most important roles. Viktor Skála masters perfectly an intellectual expression, his hidden homosexuality results to be of a lower importance. He interpreted very well the scenes with his adversary Taber (Igor Ondříček), who put on a mask of an irritable bulldog (It was a good thing that on the party, he did not frowned that much – editor’s note). One of the best-interpreted small parts was played by Patrik Bořecký as the stammering Billy Bibbit. Bořecký perfectly interpreted not only a man who feels happy to have lost his virginity, but he mastered well the initiating attack, when the Nurse almost killed him torturing him with her threat to tell his mother. (In this scene, logic was lost completely – in the novel, Billy cuts his veins before making love, however, in this case the director wanted to stress the monster represented by the Nurse Ratched, and Billy cut his veins in a solitary cell – how could he get a knife there!)

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest staged in the Brno City Theatre will surely belong among successful plays not just due to the famous original novel and environment it describes. System or freedom? There should be a balance between them, equally as there is a balance in the co-existence of a man and a woman. We will not leave anybody out, won’t we?