The celebrated tome and the iconic big screen take. The two cast a huge shadow over any attempt to create further versions of A Clockwork Orange. Can they emerge in their own right? Or are they destined to simply remain as an inferior complement to these two towering entities?
For all of the startling advancements that we have witnessed in technology since the publication of Anthony Burgess’s novel in 1962, the question of rehabilitation, conditioning and the nullification of free will remains a resonant topic. Our prisons are chockfull, and we wrestle with the penal system. How should we treat the wrongdoers? It is arguable that advancements have been non-existent. Conservative attitudes predominate. After all, somewhere like Norway’s minimum-security-on-an-island, Bastøy Prison, remains the preserve of the progressive Scandinavians and the Northern European bloc. It is unfathomable to think that we could adopt its principles in the British Isles.
Burgess’s work throws us into another world though; one full of portent; a cruel dystopia. Whilst this production might exhibit the limitations of the budget, the themes created in and around this milieu continue to resonate. We follow Alex (Gerard Krasnopolski); the leader of a band of ‘droogs’. We trace his story, as he and his clan carry out their devious, nefarious wiles with frightening gusto little care for apprehension. Commencing affairs in the notorious milk bar, where they sup on Moloko cocktails, Jonny Danciger’s direction and Ariana Kalliga’s set design offer an impressive recreation of the film’s opening scene. From thereon in, matters escalate into violence. Early scenes demonstrate a striking balletic finesse soundtracked by the emotive symphonies of Beethoven.
With misdeed following misdeed, it is somewhat inevitable that Alex is picked up by the police. Incarcerated and without any sense of remorse, he is recruited by the Minister of Interior for a pioneering new method to correct the defects in offenders and prevent future recidivism. At what price does the correction come? If you remove a person’s ability to decide on whether to do bad, are you also removing the motive to do good? Are you merely creating a servile breed and nothing more than what could be considered ‘a clockwork orange’?
The first half of this production is a little wonky and lacking cohesion. It is disappointing that for all of the faithfulness to the Kubrick film (it is interesting to note that a lot of the performances mimic that of the movie); there is no space for the haunting and terrifying ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ a capella. Yet, in spite of the inconsistencies on show for the first half, the second half really pulls matters together. There is a compelling electricity to this half stemming from Alex’s reintroduction into society. It is an energy that carries this version of A Clockwork Orange into a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. For all of its early deficiencies, it pays off substantially. This is a nightmarish trip that will get the brain ticking and the senses tingling.
Review by Greg Wetherall
A Clockwork Orange
20th to 24th September 2016
Staged by a group of students from Oxford University and directed by fellow student and Barnes resident Jonny Danciger, this innovative and original take on Burgess’ classic novel will be a night to remember. The production combines traditional acting with elements of physical and immersive theatre to tackle themes of free will, youth violence and political corruption. Running for five nights only at the OSO before the production heads to a sell-out audience at the O’Reilly theatre in Oxford, be sure to catch it in Barnes