One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Since December last the TY students at Tarbert Comprehensive School have been rehearsing for their forthcoming staging of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Directed and produced by their teacher Ms Leila Moloney, the students are now putting the finishing touches to their production – learning of lines, rehearsals four evenings a week as well as weekends. It will all come together on Thursday and Friday March 29th and 30th in Tarbert Comprehensive School’s Assembly Hall. Tickets are available from the school, phone number 068 36105. Booking in advance is advised.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a direct product of Ken Kesey’s time working the graveyard shift as an orderly at a mental health facility in Menlo Park, California. Not only did he speak to the patients and witness the workings of the institution, he took psychoactive drugs (Peyote and LSD) as part of Project MKULTRA. From this, he became sympathetic towards the patients.

The story, narrated by the gigantic but docile half-native American inmate “Chief” Bromden, focuses on the antics of the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, who faked insanity to serve out his prison sentence in the hospital’s ward for the mentally unstable. Once here, McMurphy both endures and stands witness to the abuse and degradation of the oppressive Nurse Ratched, who gains superiority and power through the flaws of the other inmates. McMurphy and the other inmates band together to make a rebellious stance against the atrocious nurse.

The title of the book is a line from a nursery rhyme:

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,

Apple seed and apple thorn,

Wire, briar, limber lock

Three geese in a flock

One flew East

One flew West

And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest

Chief Bromden’s grandmother sang this song to him when he was young, and they had a game about it. A playful name for a mental asylum is a “cuckoo’s nest”, since a mentally unstable person can be referred to as “cuckoo”. To “fly over a cuckoo’s nest” is to go too far, to get yourself in trouble. Though this can refer to the character of McMurphy being too much of a free spirit and eventually angering Nurse Ratched so much that he receives a lobotomy as a result; it can also refer to the ending, where two characters died, and Chief Bromden escaped the Asylum or “Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It is also known that cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and do not have nests of their own. The cuckoo, upon hatching, throws the other birds out of the nest out of instinct.