a truly horrorshow production of A Clockwork Orange
From the moment Alex and his droogs swagger onto the stage, the small Soho Theatre auditorium is potent with testosterone. Physical, muscular, animalistic movement fills the stage for this new imagining of Anthony Burgess’s definitive playscript of his infamous book, combining dance and physical theatre with the guttural, Russian-flavoured language.
As you would expect, this play is a brutal, violent watch, relentless and unforgiving in its pace, consistently challenging, and like the proverbial car crash that you can’t take your eyes off even though you want to. The all-male production by Action To The Word has strong homoerotic overtones, and does well to communicate the play’s themes of masculinity and adolescence, power and morality, creativity and destruction. We watch, transfixed, as a gang of youths run riot, with the leader eventually taking part in an experimental “cure for badness” which has unexpected consequences. As the concerned reverend suggests: “When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”
Lead actor Martin McCreadie, making his professional London debut, is astonishingly good – his performance is powerful, emotive and exhausting, his buy-in to the role faultless, right down to a frighteningly unhinged glint in his eye. He handles the comedown from the consistently high-octane levels to the momentary tenderness at the end brilliantly, soothing our frazzled nerves with a pensive consideration of what it is to be young.
For all its achievements, it is a very concept-led production, at times a little too heavy handed with style, and may not suit some tastes. Certain elements lack directorial finesse, however, the setting of scenes to contemporary music is a stroke of genius, particularly Placebo’s brooding Battle for the Sun which underscores a movement-based portrayal of Alex’s arrest, trial and subsequent establishment as top dog in prison. In true Brodsky fashion we aren’t sure we can listen to the Scissor Sisters in the same way again, either.
This production is edge-of-the-seat stuff. Shocking, messy, violent and intense, it succeeds in capturing the spirit of the play, proving its disturbing relevance 50 years after the novella was first published.
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