Performed by Everyman Repertory Company
Directed by Nick Bagnall
Everyman Theatre, Liverpool until 12th July 2018
Reviewed by John Owen
2018 dystopian play with music adapted from Anthony Burgess’ novel turned stage musical, hitherto unperformed; showcased as a project he wrote in 1986, but he died in 1993 before seeing its fruition.
A new technique of exploring the darker sinister forces offstage, left out by Stanley Kubrick film version in 1971, with an eye to commerciality and avoiding censorship.
This latest rendition is itself rendition torture, writ large, concerning Alexander de Large, a troubled teen and gang leader with a penchant for sex, violence and korova milk bar hangouts. No self respecting gang leader of course has to have a distinguishing trait. His is the Beethoven Symphony no. 9 Ode To Joy.
The highly stylised version and imaginative set, centralising all the action, via confined doors, rooms and floors trapdoor surprises and cubes within cubes, emphasises the square peg in the round hole conundrum of how to stamp out adolescent violent tendencies and rage cult clan behaviour .
Written before Charlie Manson ever made his trip to Sharon Tate’s abode for some late night ultra violence at rich peoples houses, the play plays with your sense of moral outrage and twists the razor blade into the gut, and twists and twists until you collective shout for either more or less.
Almost vaudeville at times, all the actors dancing to the beat and silly rhyming patois slang, nadsat of Burgess teen back slang vocabulary, bastardised English and slovo socialistic Russian imposed language on England’s green and unpleasant lands, hinting at the post-war fear at Labour governments adherence to Soviet politics. The all powerful state turning everyone into a clockwork orange.
I was both thrilled, appalled, amused, outraged, excited and repelled all at the same time, with its black caustic humour, with the clever infusion of the Tin Pan Alley or Brechtian style song play, the next whisky bar or Cabaret, cheekily taking liberties with the audience stretching their capacities.
The simplicity of style, made easy by brilliant performances all round of course. Outstanding, rightly so, is Alex (George Caple) played by who was gifted the part. He was tailor made for a budding Malcolm McDowel.l I am sure some visiting Hollywood film talent scout will notice his efforts. They should not go unrewarded.
What about the theme of the performance, some may ask? Misunderstood youth! With teen violence, via knife crimes, grabbing media attention, its potency and relevance will help provoke suitable publicity. Is it glamourising, serenading or bigging up the crazy psycho killer angle, a nascent born to kill budding serial killer, a dysfunctional anti hero in a dystopian novel world. Troubled teenager rebel without a cause, lost generation blank x deadbeat on rye, etc. A nihilistic addicted to drugs getting high, and all those other evil vices.
The priest used to give the Catholic moral dimension a doubting Thomas, if they gave him the Ludoviko Treatment of Dr. Brodsky. Will he “cease to be a man, no choice, just a machine running scared reacting fearfully to authority and power.”
As millions once did under Stalin’s monolithic totalitarian Russia in the last century. free will needs a moral compass. No government should be empowered too much, the collective is not always best, Bentham’s utilitarian principles for the benefit of the majority sometimes crap-out.