Theatre review: A Clockwork Orange

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 7:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 2015, 2:00pm

A Clockwork Orange

Action to the World

Lyric Theatre, Academy for Performing Arts

Reviewed: November 6

Anyone who hasn't read this literary classic by Anthony Burgess, or watched its 1971 screen adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, might feel a little confused during the opening scenes of this Action to the World production, directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones.

There were bursts of loud music, a lot of shouting (in thick northern English accents) and physical movement that took a while to digest. But once the brawl was over and stage lights began to dim, a gripping tale of violence, social control and redemption began to unfold.

A Clockwork Orange, a novella published in 1962, pitches teenage delinquent Alex and his gang (the Droogs) against a repressive totalitarian state. It reflects the British public's growing fear over juvenile delinquency at a time when youth culture was sweeping the country.

In this production, the action takes place in the gritty underworld of Manchester, where violent crimes are prevalent. With a 10-member all-male cast, it lives up to its "testosterone-fuelled" stage adaptation claim, although what makes this drama the more intense and terrifying is that all the violence is implied. You don't see much on stage.

Spencer-Jones strips the story to its bare essentials and her direction is sparing and pacy. So it leaves much room for imagination and intellectual pondering: is social conditioning/brainwashing just as frightening, cruel and inhumane as juvenile violence and rebellion? Are concerns raised by Burgess about our society in the 1960s still relevant today?

Other than the main role Alex, forcefully portrayed by Adam Search, the remaining characters were shared between the ensemble, with Simon Cotton and Philip Honeywell standing out with their strong stage presence.

The choice of music - predominantly British '80s pop and rock, including the apt Eurythmics track, Beethoven (I Love to Listen To) - sets the mood of discontent, if not anarchy, that was widespread in northern England during the early Thatcher years.

Kevin Kwong