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A Clockwork Orange – New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich

Writer: Adapted from Anthony Burgess

Director: Alexandra Spencer–Jones

Reviewer: Michael Gray

[Rating:4]

C;lockwork-OrangeAnthony Burgess was not happy about the way his seminal novel transferred to the screen. The amoral adolescent gang-lads seemed much more vivid, more threatening, more iconic.

Whatever would he have made of this amazingly physical re-working of that 1952 tale (based on his own stage version), with ten young men giving energetic expression to the homoerotic dystopia extrapolated from the original story.

There’s much he would recognize; plenty of Ludwig Van Beethoven, sonata as well as symphony, sharing the soundtrack with David Bowie, The Scissor Sisters, Eurythmics, Queen and Placebo (Battle for the Sun), the moloko – the spiked milk which is the recreational drug of choice for young Alex and his friends the Droogs. Not forgetting the Nadsat, a crazy, casual Russian-inspired patois, heightened at times with cod Shakespearean formality. And of course the ultraviolence, much of it glamorously choreographed by director Alexandra Spencer-Jones.

Adam Search is a fine, charismatic Alex: cocky, depraved, insolent. A suitable case for the Ludovico treatment – aversion therapy with Beethoven as backing track.

And cured he is, nauseated by sex and violence, robbed of the freedom to choose, unable to respond to the temptations paraded before him, despised and rejected by family and friends, tempted to suicide.

The ending – Burgess’s famous Chapter 21 – in which our hero grows up and finds a steady partner is perhaps less convincing, even with the direct appeal to the audience.

This production has boundless physical energy, spectacular movement work but relatively little in the way of real drama or believable characters. Its world is increasingly, teasingly, orange: an egg cup, a flat cap, the carrots and the clementines in the nightmare ballet. And there are welcome flecks of comic relief among the the kicks, the blows and the groping, the camp nurses, for instance.

There is excellent work across a strong young ensemble, with the occasional standout characterization: F Alexander the Writer, the Minister of the Inferior, and the impressive doubling of Mr Deltoid, social worker, with an Irish hellfire chaplain.

Action to the Word’s A Clockwork Orange has been successfully revived several times – London fringe, Edinburgh – and now, slightly longer, it’s on the road again, ending this tour in Hong Kong by way of Inverness.

Until September 28, then touring until November 10

Photo: Simon Kayne

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