Did you know that as at the time of me writing this, there are over 88,000 people languishing in one of Her Majesty’s jails in the United Kingdom. According to the Home Office, the cost of keeping one prisoner in jail is just over £33,000 per year. Multiply the first figure by the second and that’s a lot of money that could be spent on other things. It’s no wonder that rehabilitation is one of the main purposes of the penal system. So, if you are, for example, Minister of the Interior and a doctor comes to you with a bold new treatment that is guaranteed to reform any prison inmate and within two weeks make them a safe, member of society, able to be released once more into the world then you would give it a try wouldn’t you? This is the backbone of Action the Word’s award-winning production of A Clockwork Orange which has just opened at The Park Theatre.
Based on Anthony Burgess’ novel of the same name, A Clockwork Orange follows the life of 15-year-old Alex (Jono Davies) who, though only a malchick (boy) is king of his little world, ruling the roost over his nadsat (teenage) droogs (friends) and shaika (gang) members Dim (Sebastian Charles), Georgie (Luke Bavistock) and Pete (Tom Whitlock) and leading them into a campaign of ultra-violence and mayhem, much to the disgust of Alex’s post-corrective advisor Mr Deltoid (Damien Hasson) who warns him that one day he will go too far and end up in prison. Alex scoffs and, in reality doesn’t care about anything. Violence, mayhem and the old in and out (sex) are his loves. But Alex has one other thing he loves above all others, the music of Ludwig Van Beethoven. At the Korova Milk Bar, Dim shows disrespect to a customer singing the choral movement to Beethoven’s ninth symphony and Alex punishes him in a rough and humiliating way. Later that night Alex and his gang break into the home of a baboochka (old woman) and Alex knocks her out cold. As he tries to run, Dim and the gang turn on him leaving him alone in the house to be picked up by the millicents (police) who arrive in a surprisingly quick time. Alex is now in deep trouble, abandoned by everyone he knows, he is sentenced to prison where he appears to make some headway, seeming to turn to Bog (God) and becoming a favourite of the godman (priest). However, Alex is playing an eegra (Game) and is trying to work himself onto a new technique supposedly guaranteed to get prisoners released early. A visit by the Minister of the Interior (James Smoker) may be Alex’s chance to move from the walls of the prison and into the care of Dr Branom (Philip Honeywell) who is looking for a willing guinea pig to be the first subject of The Ludovico Technique. Could this be a case where someone should be saying to Alex, be careful what you wish for?
So, in the synopsis above, you will have noticed a few words that have had their English translation added in parenthesis next to them. This is because when Anthony Burgess wrote his novel back in 1962 he invented a language for Alex and his ilk to use. Obviously, Burgess had a crystal ball handy because these days, with text and emoji speak, the younger generation can be completely incomprehensible when talking to each other. Hopefully, this is the only parallel with contemporary times that the story can give us. Oh, if only that were so. Mindless violence, disaffected youths and governments that preach democracy whilst introducing laws to limit the freedoms of the individual, all of these things are with us today, As indeed are world leaders who manipulate and lie – not that it is called that in the ‘post-truth’ world – to achieve their aims (which are always for the good of the country and not themselves obviously.
However, moving away from the politics of then and now, A Clockwork Orange is a fantastically well-written piece of work that has certainly stood the test of time as far as a story goes. Alex, as a character is difficult to pin down. You can love him, you can hate him, at times you will even do both, but no matter what, he is an astonishingly well-conceived person whose domination of the story is absolute. In Jonno Davies, we see an Alex who is perfection in every way. Handsome, slim, fit and commanding in stature, John is Alex personified. A personality that is everything flirty, lascivious, childish, erudite, charming, vicious, compliant and all points in between, Jonno makes the part his own and delivers a tour de force performance. His final monologue is almost Shakespearean both in the writing and the delivery with every single audience member transfixed by this marvelous performance. In fact I was saying to my companion after the show, I could easily imagine this version of A Clockwork Orange being performed at the Globe.
Of course, this not a one-man show and Alex would be little without the other characters he interacts with, played superbly by the other eight talented and versatile cast members who really give their all in what is a very physical play. Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones really makes the most of every aspect of the story and her cast by playing the show in the round and moving around so there are no bad sight lines for the audience. There are some lovely deft touches to the show, such as the use of only three colours throughout and the Billy Boy ballet – choreographed by Hanna Lee – was a brilliant way to depict the battle between Alex’s gang and the Billy Boy gang.
A Clockwork Orange cannot be described as easy watching. There are moments when you really want to turn your head away but, rather like Alex undergoing The Ludovico Technique, it is impossible to drag your eyes off the stage. The production is intense and gripping from the start. There is beauty and there is horror, there is violence and there is tenderness and throughout its ninety-minute run, A Clockwork Orange grabs its audience makes it sit and watch every moment of the unfolding story of Alex, his droogs and a dystopian future that may just be around the corner. A really amazing and awesome production.
Review by Terry Eastham
Action To The Word’s award-winning and breathtaking all-male version of A Clockwork Orange hits Park Theatre. This electrifying and testosterone-filled physical theatre horror show exquisitely captures and transcends the spirit of Anthony Burgess’ original literary masterpiece.
A Clockwork Orange lures its audience into the glorious glass-edged nastiness of Manchester’s underworld. A playtime of orgiastic ultraviolence and sexuality, it’s the story of little Alex and his Droogs in their battle against the tedium of adolescence. An unapologetic celebration of the human condition, it remains as terrifyingly relevant today as when the book was published in 1962 and when Stanley Kubrick’s film caused a stir in 1971.
Glynis Henderson Productions in association with Park Theatre present Action To The Word’s
A Clockwork Orange
By Anthony Burgess
Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones
Lighting Design by James Baggaley
ALEX – JONNO DAVIES
GEORGIE/ZOPHAR – LUKE BAVERSTOCK
DIM/PEDOFIL/JOE – SEBASTIAN CHARLES
FRANK ALEXANDER/MUM/BRODSKY – SIMON COTTON
DELTOID/CHAPLAIN/RICK – DAMIEN HASSON
MARK ALEXANDER/BRANOM/MARTY/WOMAN – PHILIP HONEYWELL
OLD WOMAN/MINISTER/DAD/RUBENSTEIN – JAMES SMOKER
BILLY BOY/GOVERNOR/COMEDIAN/F-ME PUMPS/DOLIN/LEN – WILL STOKES
PETE/BROMINE – TOM WHITELOCK
Plays: 14 Feb – 18 Mar 2017