Review: Heads Up Introducing with John Godber

Which film would the third most performed playwright in the country pick as the one that has influenced him the most? The voice of Hull culture Michelle Dee went along to Kardomah 94 to find out.

Apparently the smart money had been on Sharknado 2. I’m sorry shark fans but that was never going to happen. Many in the audience were convinced it would be a proud piece of Yorkshire, immortalised forever on celluloid, such as in Kes, Billy Liar or, given the man’s back-catalogue This Sporting Life. But he threw us a curve ball all right, choosing an all-American classic from the seventies: a picture that would launch the career of one John Joseph “Jack” Nicholson.

John Godber Introducing
John Godber settles down to watch One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Photo by Jerome Whittingham @photomoments

Introducing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to the Kardohmah crowd, John Godber described it as the best film ever made. He gave three reasons as to why: the best characterisation; the emotional impact; the central performance. With no little amount of surprise, we settled in as the strains of Jack Nietzsche’s classic opening theme played on a bow and a saw in the Appalachian tradition resonated in the room.

Directed by Milos Forman in 1975, the themes of freedom and confinement, madness and manipulation explored in one Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, have just as much resonance today, as they did then. In the 21st century institutions routinely restrain and medicate patients rather than engage in rehabilitation. Doctors are far too quick to prescribe the cosh juice, to dull all emotions desirable or not so.

The scene where Randall steals the bus to take the ‘Doctors’ on a boat trip shows just how easily the patients’ lives could be improved. The looks of nervous wonder the joy of being free men, the normalised human interaction – tempered with just a little psychotic eye gouging – makes you cheer for the intrepid crew. For a film that is set largely in a secure mental hospital Forman finds much humour in the piece and tonight’s audience laugh like drains, as the patients find their voices and threaten to overturn the order of things.

The acting performance from Nicholson is electrifying and he justifiably won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Randle McMurphy, as did Louise Fletcher for Nurse Ratched. The supporting cast of Danny De Vito, Brad Dourif –nominated for Best Supporting Actor – and the eye-popping expressions of Christopher Lloyd give this film its sense of camaraderie. They become united in single purpose to reclaim their autonomy, their free will to make decisions.

John Godber has just begun working with Nick Figgis on a new film called The Last Laugh set in Hull, with a Hull-based cast. He describes the film as being an acoustic, low budget – as film budgets go – story about a failed university lecturer who reinvents himself as a stand up comic.

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