A Clockwork Orange: Horrorshow

Action to the Word’s production of A Clockwork Orange has divided audiences and it’s already being declared genius or drivell. I thought it was horrorshow.

If you have no connection to the 1962 novella by Anthony Burgess (who wrote this stage adaption) or Kubrik’s 1971 film (based on the book), that means I liked it.

I saw the film when I was too young to understand the world of violent young men and wasn’t inspired to read about it. Now I want to, especially after hearing what led Burgess to write about violence and choice: his pregnant wife was beaten and raped by American GIs during a WW2 blackout in London.

For all its uncomfortably alluring violence, A Clockwork Orange isn’t a glorification of this world (I’m not a Kubrik fan), but it tries to get into the head of a teenager who sees it as his best choice.

Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones is in her early 20s and says that her interest in the work started with Romeo and Juliet, another world where young men are violent and don’t understand that there are options, and she chose to work with an all-male cast to fill the stage with testosterone. This unexpectedly degenders the work and takes away assumption of character based on gender (and Kubrik’s casual misogyny).

What I loved most about this production was seeing how this group of young talented UK artists are looking at violence. As sweet young artists, they are far from Clockwork’s hero Alex and his droogs and offer nothing new, but seeing it through their eyes is fascinating.

It takes a while for the tone to settle. It begins a bit too Westside Storyish with dancing thugs, but the violence and shock of a rape brings us firmly into the stylished physicality and dark humour of the world, and the cast (led by Martin McCreadie, who lets us feel the charisma of Alex’s violence) embody the world with a passion and discipline that makes it curiously delightful to watch.

I suspect that enjoyment or appreciation of this Orange will be dependent on a connection to the book or film, especially as Burgess’s Nadsat slang takes time to understand and being in a large venue (the show started off in intimate rooms), it’s gloriosity is lost beyond the first rows.

And touring a large cast to a far-off land also means that ticket prices are way more than its Fringe run and may well place this show out of reach of the people who would love it the most. I suggest keeping an eye out for deals.

Photo gallery:

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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