To See or Not to See: A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel, A Clockwork Orange, has been adaptation fodder for quite some time. The most well-known version is the graphic (and for some unpalatable) film by Stanley Kubrick. This new stage adaptation that can be seen at New World Stages takes out some of the visual gore, but doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable subject matter.
Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones presents a minimalistic, monochromatic stage upon which a troupe of young men perform. With a blur of perfect physiques, fight scenes and scenes of terror and mayhem are almost modern dances.
If you aren’t familiar with A Clockwork Orange, you may want to brief yourself on it before seeing the play. It begins with teenager Alex deLarge (Jonno Davies) and his gang–known as Droogs (played by Jimmy Brooks, Matt Doyle, and Sean Patrick Higgins)–fighting a rival gang and speaking in the language that Burgess created in the novel. The language is called Nadsat, and it is a combination of Russian and Cockney street sland. It is slightly confusing to understand; understanding it relies quite a bit on the actors’ portrayals and way of speaking. So, while the story itself may a bit difficult to follow because of the language, the cast does a great job of showing the story.
Alex and his Droogs drink Moloko–a drug-laced milk. They rob people, beat up people, and rape people whenever they feel like it. After a foibled crime, Alex gets arrested and thrown into jail. In an effort to crack down on violence, the government has begun a project that will reform criminals. Criminals are injected with newly developed drug that basically takes all their devious impulses toward violence and makes them ill. Anytime Alex feels the urge to hurt someone or do something bad, he physically gets sick. Needless to say, this “cure” is controversial.
A Clockwork Orange examines whether right or wrong is learned or an innate trait in people. It also makes you think about how important free will is versus the overall good of society. And, obviously, the brutality of a totalitarian government.
This production had a sold-out run in London, and you can see why. The previously mentioned minimalist approach to the staging and the fluid movements of the ensemble combined with the music (from Queen to Beethoven) create a very stylized production that is engaging to watch. Additionally, Jonno Davies’ swagger as Alex carries the entire play on his amply-strong shoulders.
Whether it is because of the cast or because of the look of the production itself, you’ll be thinking about A Clockwork Orange long after the lights come up.
For more information on the production and for tickets, click here.
Photo Credit: Caitlin McNaney