A Clockwork Orange is a challenging piece to adapt to stage, but it is tackled in an innovative way in this bold and captivating piece.
From the very beginning of the play we are plunged into a world of violence and confusion. Greeted by a creepy Alex and his unnerving droogs, the audience is on edge. They aggressively leer at us and we recoil in our seats. Natalie Lauren is especially disturbing as Georgie, sliding her mouth up and down a pole with distorted facial expressions. We are then assaulted by scene after scene of violence. The physicality is impressive and convincing, the rival gangs’ fight especially mesmerising to watch.
Unfortunately though, despite being effectively unsettled, the audience is also left a bit too confused. The disjointed plot takes a while to get into and the minimalist, slightly disappointing set doesn’t help to locate us either. It feels rushed and more of an introduction may have helped to dispel initial scepticism.
However, the play does develop and goes from strength to strength. Once fully immersed in the dystopian world and on board with the characters and plot, A Clockwork Orange is an extremely rewarding experience. Gerard Krasnopolski as Alex steals the show with a masterful performance, ranging from disturbing snarls and shocking outbursts of rage, to a cowering, servile, vulnerable child. The whole cast are impressive and make Nadsat, the Russian-influenced slang in the play, interesting and comprehensible. Excellent articulation and convincing lines really captures the visceral quality of the language.
The cast also clearly have good chemistry. Dynamics on stage are gripping with intense scenes between Alex and his droogs creating cut-throat tension. The scene between the prison inmates is equally stressful as they size each other up, finally turning to attack a fellow prisoner. They yank his tooth out and the yelps and cries are horrifying. Importantly though, we don’t see anything. Part of the brilliance of this play is the suggestion of violence, the psychological probing used to make the audience imagine for themselves what is happening.
Part of the brilliance of this play is the suggestion of violence, the psychological probing used to make the audience imagine for themselves what is happening.
This is evoked especially creatively during Alex’s rehabilitation treatment. As he watches scenes of ‘ultra-violence’ on a screen and is made to feel nauseated, the audience is subjected to incessant and painful strobe lighting. Brodsky, the doctor, provides a commentary to violent scenes that Alex would be watching, making us conquer up own our individual disturbing video. It is an excellent design, enabling the audience to become thoroughly engaged in the story. As the plot becomes twisted and upsetting, we are more fully drawn into to the heart of the play.
Clearly a lot of thought and care has gone into this production, and it is a refreshing and thought-provoking piece. Themes of freewill and identity are touched on, but thanks to Cameron Spain’s performance as a more light-hearted Chaplain, we are not bombarded with moralistic sermons. The play’s power comes much more from its interesting dramatic depiction of such a disturbing tale. The innovative and intense experience of the play itself is worth buying a ticket for.
3 nights left at Keble O’Reilly.