Friday, 23 November 2012

A Clockwork Orange - review

Written by: Peeny (@AdamPeeny)

Where's Peen been?
Soho Theatre, London
Was Peen keen?

There is a very valid and poignant message to be taken from A Clockwork Orange, and it’s one that is new to few people. After all; this has been a novel, a film, and a play for quite some time and frankly if you don’t know the story, you should. In the wake of the 2011 London riots (granted, a year ago, but they’re pretty difficult to forget), we see a gang of ‘ultra violent’ teenagers up to what they do best, and Alexandra Spencer-Jones’s production does not think twice about hammering home the stuff that we need to know in a spectacular fashion. 

Photo: Simon Kane
Alex (Martin McCreadie) is given an ultimatum: spend a lifetime in prison for his bad behaviour, or be brainwashed to ensure he is well behaved from now on. He is subjected to conditioning which, at the same time as succeeding in making him a good lad, makes him completely phobic of Beethoven's music which he loves. Spencer-Jones has made this an all-male, homoerotic version of the play which is crammed full of superbly choreographed fight routines on top of her replacement of the original score for the play with updated, modern music which includes the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax, and Beethoven aplenty.

Photo: Simon Kane
This isn’t an explicitly gay version, though. They do stay entirely true to the novel, “they’re just sometimes boys instead of girls”. It works, both ways too; you would be forgiven for thinking this was an explicitly gay version which offers an entirely different, and just as powerful viewing of the show. Sometimes, it’s a collection of extremely camp men and only once are they aided by the use of female costumes. The slick and swift changes from action to Swan Lake style dancing is remarkable; the way that the droogies are in one instance violent, and in the next they’re dancing with a stick and smooching their peers is quite difficult to comprehend at first, though. It doesn’t hinder the production in any way, however, and from the second that the cast walk on to stage, we’re captivated. We’re almost forced to pay attention and once they have us in the palm of their hands, there is no letting go. It’s a sheer delight to see a big array of such talented performers led by the forceful, hearty McCreadie who commits to his role with perfection.

It’s no “something-or-other-what’s-it” production, it knows exactly what it is and what it wants to say; the groundwork is firm and most noticeable. It tells a story with an all-encompassing cast in a very all-encompassing way. Whereas within the original story there is some violence and aggression towards women, this production lacks the ability to tell that side of the story and at times we do question how destructive the gang is; but they more than make up for this in other ways and this is a real horror show.   

Photo: Simon Kane
This production runs until 5 January 2013. 
@SohoTheatre @ActionToTheWord 

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