Anthony Burgess’ infamous masterpiece A Clockwork Orange returned to it’s native Manchester last week in the form of Action to the Word’s physical theatre piece at the Lowry. The show, born on the London Fringe, has just returned from Australia after it’s sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival. Being a big fan of the story in all it’s various forms, I went to see it with an open mind and curious as to how the company had taken this timeless masterpiece on, genuinely having no idea just wondering what it was going to be then, eh?
For those of you who don’t know the story, it centers around Alex: the charming, attractive and manipulative anti-hero of our story. Along with his band of droogs (friends), Alex’s interests include ultraviolence, in-out in-out (rape), Ludwig Van (Beethoven) and drinking moloko (milk). Set in a dystopian future complete with new fictional language, Nadsat, Alex’s story progresses as he falls victim to the Ludovico technique, conditioning him against his greatest loves using somewhat brutal means, thus turning him into the ‘Clockwork Orange’ so-mentioned in the title. After an attempted suicide and apology from the state, Alex, no longer conditioned, deems himself cured, ready for a life of non-violence.
The all-male company had chosen to do the play from a very homoerotic angle. Acts of ultraviolence were accompanied with passionate kisses, a gay couple was attacked and the pumping soundtrack was strictly music by gay or bisexual artists. This was effective as it highlighted the homoeroticism that is present in the work: Alex is a flamboyant, fashionable, open and confident with a raw sexual appetite, not to mention the dominantly-male nature of the piece. It also updated the play somewhat and was an interesting deviation from the norm.
The production was solid, funny and a good example of physical theatre. My praise is aptly given to Adam Search, who took the role of Alex, who brought cockiness and complexity to the role. Tempting as it would be to borrow tropes from Malcolm McLaren’s exceptional film portrayal, Search managed to resist entirely, bring an entirely new dimension onto Alex’s character.
For all it’s praise, I must say that if there’s one adjective that should always be in the same sentence as all things Clockwork Orange it’s ‘shocking’. Yes, I know we are all impossible to shock these days thanks to ‘the internet’, but I really didn’t feel like the production packed enough of a, excuse the pun, punch. I had (oddly) gone in, wanting to leave the theatre shaking with discomfort. However, in reality, the violence just was too stylized and well, just not violent enough.
On the whole, the performance was enjoyable and definitely got better as time went on and the energy built up. I can also safely say it was not at all what I had expected from it and is definitely well worth a watch.
Three Stars out of Five Stars