A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
by Anthony Burgess.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 5 January 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 December.
More for the eye than the ear.
Futuristic style stood-out in Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange, made from the American edition of Anthony Burgess’s early sixties novella. That edition cut the final chapter, leaving chaotic violence as the alternative to forcible repression of violent instinct by nausea-inducing chemistry.
Burgess adapted the book as a play in 1998, for Alan Lyddiard’s Northern Stage Ensemble, who toured the script, now revived by suitably named Action to the Word theatre company in a spare version where the gangs and their behaviour no longer seem from the future.
Set amid contemporary reality by Kubrick: concrete housing estate, underpass, run-down theatre, the overall impact remained remote in its stylistic grandeur. Not here, where details register like the male actor in a skirt (all-male casting helpfully denaturalises violence against women) thanking Alex for interrupting the rivals who were gang-raping her – though the Droogs are merely prioritising revenge over sexual violence for the moment.
The stylised movement, gang-groupings and eruptions of conflict, now seem familiarly topical, as do the animalistic noises by which the gangs show themselves beasts wanting discourse of reason. But the action moves swiftly to the state-sponsored aversion treatment meted-out to Alex. It wouldn’t be hard to find a politician today who could take credit for cutting youth crime, if not so volubly proclaiming the hiring of young thugs in the police-force.
Group movement is a strength of Alexandra Spencer-Jones’ production, energised by loud, often distorted, snatches of the Beethoven which fuels Alex’s violence. And group stillness, for the final section (omitted by Kubrick) has the calm of a summative plenary ending a group therapy session, as Alex shifts into the maturity of adulthood, freely putting violence behind him.
It’s the resolution of the issue – or was in times when jobs brought a sense of purpose for young men – rejecting individual and state terror. But it lays bare the cast’s weaker side (as with the 1998 performers), apparent as soon as Burgess’s stylised, synthetic language, compounding elements of English and Russian, is spoken. Its structural demands expose quite severe vocal limitations on a fast-moving show that’s best seen rather than heard..
Alex: Martin McCreadie.
Frank Alexander/Dr Brodsky/Mum/Pedifil: Neil Chinneck.
Joe the Lodger/Doln/Big Jew/New Droog: Simon Cotton.
Mark/Warder/Dr Branom/Woman/Marty: Philip Honeywell.
Deltoid/Chaplain/Old Lady: Rob Maloney.
Georgie/Bromine: James Meryk.
Dim/Minister: Stephen Spencer.
Billy Boy/Rubenstein/F-me Pumps/New Droog: Will Stokes.
Pete/Clown/Doctor: Tom Whitlock.
Director: Alexandra Spencer-Jones.
Lighting: James Baggaley.
Choreographer: Hannah Lee.
Fights: Lewis Penfold.
Assistant director: Maddy Mutch.