Cuckoo’s Nest – madness and magic with Footsbarn

Cuckoo's Nest by Footsbarn which is inspired by Ken Kesey's famous novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Cuckoo's Nest by Footsbarn which is inspired by Ken Kesey's famous novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

The film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Jack Nicholson as Randle Patrick McMurphy, a psychiatric patient on a collision course with the tyrannical Nurse Ratched, was released in 1975 and went on to become a cinema classic. And almost since that time, Paddy Hayter wanted to return to the original “wonderful book by Ken Kesey” on which the film was based, and adapt it for Footsbarn Theatre Company.

The artistic director of Footsbarn fulfilled that dream three years ago and the company, which is currently touring Ireland, will perform Cuckoo’s Nest in the city’s Black Box Theatre from this Sunday, October 1, to Wednesday, October 4.

The name Footsbarn has legendary status in this part of the world, with the travelling company having been key to the success of Galway Arts Festival in the festival’s early years.

Many of us first saw them performing their vibrant versions of Shakespeare’s work in their tent at the Fisheries Field and, in the more than 30 years since, they’ve remained very much a touring company.

Since 1991 Footsbarn have been based in France, but the company started life in Cornwall, with early rehearsals being held in a barn owned by the Foot family – hence the name.

And through the years, they have retained strong links with Ireland. Cuckoo’s Nest premiered at last year’s Clifden Arts Festival and the company performed there this year too with two other plays, Mingling with Molière and Bottom’s Dream (a premiere of a work “based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream but without the lords and ladies”, says Paddy).  Their current tour has seen them perform at venues from Cootehill in Cavan to Electric Picnic and Glór in Ennis, varying the shows at each venue.

Footsbarn are best known for their adaptations of Shakespeare, but are always happy to embrace new work and that’s as it should be, says Paddy.

“Some people thought One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was too black for us,” he acknowledges. “But it’s not. It’s a wonderful story of humanity, tragic and comic, full of masks and imagery.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.