February 25, 2017

A Clockwork Orange at Park Theatre is Real Horrorshow

Alex (Jonno Davies) endures an experiment to try and "kill the criminal reflex", photo courtesy of Matt Martin
Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange has delighted and horrified readers for decades – as has Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation from 1971. Now, Action To The Word’s theatrical staging of the cult classic has returned to London’s Park Theatre after its debut at Soho Theatre in 2009.

The tale follows Alexander (Alex) DeLarge and his “droogs”, Georgie, Dim and Pete, in their quest for ultraviolence. But have the foursome found their feet on stage? Well, this all-male production is –  as they would say – real horrorshow.

The teenagers use the term to indicate something good in Nadsat, which is English laced with Russian influences. The play honours the original plot and language, so a quick refresher beforehand might be advisable. Otherwise, the storyline is a minefield to navigate, especially when the artistic director, Alexandra Spencer-Jones, has sprinkled it with an additional layer of homoeroticism.

Photo courtesy of Matt Martin

Alex (played by the hunky Jonno Davies) and his droogs casually kiss one another, strip down to just their muscles – no complaints here – and brutally rape other men. In one scene, Pete (Tom Whitelock) finds Alex being called “Little Alex” by his probation officer Mr Deltoid (Damien Hasson) hilarious. The dots are joined pretty closely together with a lascivious lick of Pete’s lips and a well-placed glance down to Alex’s…you know what.

It’s all fun and games until Alex is arrested for murder and rape. In jail, he takes part in an experimental programme that will reduce his sentence and render him averse to all forms of violence.

Each of the eight cast members, besides Davies, performs three roles. They morph seamlessly and manage to excel at each accent, posture or gender change. For the limited female characters, they don a tutu or a pair of killer heels.

Pete (Tom Whitelock) drinks his moloko like a good boy, photo courtesy of Matt Martin
Davies is the cheeky chappie we all expect Alex to be, with his cocksure attitude and cat-that-got-the-cream grin. In this case though, his drink of choice is milk, or moloko, spiked with drugs.

The minutiae of facial expressions are detectable because of the theatre-in-the-round setup. The stage almost spills into the audience on all four sides, making for intimate viewing in a space with a capacity for 200 people.  

When Alex takes a bite of an orange, peel and all, the audience feels the juicy spray. As the droogs run rampant and target their next victims, the fight scenes are literally in-your-face. It’s a wonder no one receives a blow to the head with Dim (Sebastian Charles)'s golf club for looking at him funny. Ultraviolence, not love, is all around.

Photo courtesy of Matt Martin
The droogs occasionally break into graceful dance sequences – choreographed by Spencer-Jones and set to a soundtrack ranging from Gossip to Placebo to Alex’s favourite, Beethoven.

A wooden table and four chairs receive most of the battering in the minimal set. Pops of orange are cleverly interjected throughout – in the form of a camera, underwear, a bottle of Lucozade and even the blaze of an orange spotlight.  

While the play’s conclusion is not as satisfying as the film’s, we must raise a big glass of moloko to this rendition of A Clockwork Orange – it’s real horrorshow.

A Clockwork Orange is showing until 18 March at Park Theatre, N4 3JP. Phone the box office on 020 7870 6876 or book online here. The runtime is 90 minutes with no interval.

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