BWW Review: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Park Theatre
Action To The Word are celebrating what would have been Anthony Burgess's 100th birthday with the London return of their production of the notorious A Clockwork Orange. It has previously run at the Edinburgh Festival and at venues worldwide, and takes over from Raising Martha at the Park Theatre.
Alex and his "droogs" are running riot, committing acts of violence almost as a matter of instinct. They are warned to change their ways before they go too far - this advice falls on deaf ears, yet proves to be quite prescient. Alex is sent to prison and tries everything he can think of to get an early release - so when he hears about a scientific trial that is said to 'cure' evil, that seems to be the obvious solution to his problems, despite the misgivings of the prison chaplain. Will this be the second piece of advice Alex will end up wishing he'd taken?
The script is Burgess's own, but edited down to fit the tight 90-minute running time. As may be expected from an Action To The Word production, this show is intensely physical - this is an approach that lends itself naturally to the aggression of Alex's world, at the same time making it artful and expressive. Alexandra Spencer-Jones' choreography is a true highlight, performed to a mix of Beethoven and more contemporary music (from Placebo to David Bowie).
It takes place in the round, which adds to the gladiatorial feel; the set-up allows for various entry points, which Spencer-Jones uses to her advantage with slick and focused direction. The lack of an actual set serves it well, with props effortlessly brought on and off the stage when required.
The company works well together as a unit, taking on quite a selection of roles between them. Sebastian Charles, Luke Baverstock and Tom Whitelock as Dim, Georgie and Pete (Alex's "droogs") are a combination that's equally entertaining and terrifying.
Jonno Davies becomes Alex with apparent ease; as the show goes on the audience develops a kind of love/hate relationship with him. His actions are reprehensible and downright horrifying, but Davies' charm and dark humour give the character a certain allure - and in spite of his crimes you can't help but feel for him in his suffering. Without doubt this is one of the standout lead performances of the year so far.
Dystopian works are, perhaps understandably, all the rage at the moment. Something like A Clockwork Orange is absolutely timeless, and its relevance can rarely be overstated - what this production does so brilliantly is take a refreshing angle on the material, whilst retaining its essence. Unquestionably a must-see.
A Clockwork Orange is at Park Theatre until 18 March
Picture credit: Matt Martin