A Clockwork Orange

Mon 14th – Wed 16th November 2011

reviews

Theo Gentilli

at 23:19 on 14th Nov 2011

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This play is a wonderfully experimental take on Burgess's classic novella 'Clockwork Orange'.

The main character Alex is amorphously split into the five cast members, giving a sense of psychological fracture and so perfectly complementing Alex's mind. We see the binaries of classical culture and mindless violence, ingenious semantic creations and crude profanity, temptation and physical restraint, all conveyed in the splitting of Alex into the five characters. The intelligent use of natural accents by each actor added to this sense of fracture, and played on Burgess's theme of youth not having a fulfilled and grounded identity. This benefit must be balanced with not using Alex's voice, apart from the smaller black haired actor, which did take away from the power of the play, as this was a highly memorable feature of the film and characterized the language of Alex's gang.

The acting, at times, slipped into melodrama, where shouting replaced projection - I felt that more could have been achieved by varying vocal volume. Indeed, it could have added more punch to the tensest moments.

The staging was clever. Dark and simplistic, TVs formed the backdrop, potentially alluding to the new power of communication emerging in the 60s. Use of few motifs to identify location, such as the vase and typewriter for the assault on the writer's house, focused attention on the beautifully indirect violence that was portrayed. They used barbie dolls to simulate the rape of the writer's wife. With one actor pretending to rape the barbie doll, other actors slowly cut other barbie dolls up. By leaving violence to the imagination, the director intensified the power of the scene where an attempt at representing the violence physically would have been unconvincing, and certainly not as powerful.

The costumes were very well done, with the barcodes on the chest of the shirts conveying the gang's shared love for violence and conveying a homogeneous identity. The use of the impressive female actor, Mairi, made the mindless violence of Alex and his cronies all the more shocking. Mairi was utterly persuasive in her masculinity, and at crucial times, the re-emphasis of her femininity, for example her nudity, re affirmed the powerful use of the one woman in the cast.

I loved the actors' intensity. In the 75-minute no break ordeal, where scene changes were seamless and quick, and the tempo rarely let down, the audience were thrown into a whirlwind experience that shook us deeply. It seemed at times that a variation of tempo would have been very effective, especially in emphasizing the climactic moments, such as the orgasmic classical music scene, and the psychological remedying of Alex's violent tendencies.

I felt that, in a play where the scope for exploration of themes is relatively limited, potentially the director could have honed in on a few of them, rather than attempting to portray them all. There was a small cast, it was a short play, and the task of exploring Burgess's complex book may have been too much for the play. Not that this was a crucially problematic aspect, but I felt that more could have been achieved if the director had attempted to hone down the play's focus.

There was a wonderful, and thought-provoking attempt at 'meta-theatre'. To indicate scene changes, there was narration (- I think-) from outside the dictates of the book or film, which honed into the personal traits of an individual actor’s cockney or American accent. This securely grounded the play in reality, where it could have easily have seemed to be a certain warped fantasy of a delusional individual. Breaking out of the plot made the audience realize that this was only a representation of the original work, and in its divergent representation, gave the performance the space for its fascinating experimentation.

Overall, an engaging, complex and thrilling play, it took on a huge task, and within its scope, managed this fantastically well.

I highly recommend this, but also recommend that one watches the film, and even reads the book before this, in order to pick up on the intelligence of the interpretation of the play by both actors and director.

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