By Harriet Thompson
Recreating onstage Anthony Burgessâ€™ iconic â€˜A Clockwork Orangeâ€™ was never going to be a simple task. Given the unusual language and strong sexual and violent content of the novel, along with the cinematic legacy of Stanley Kubrickâ€™s film, the choice to adapt this tale for the theatre was a decidedly brave, and probably unwise, one.
Arcola Theatreâ€™s larger studio space is the location for this fresh take on the story of a young manâ€™s descent into violent crime and his subsequent treatment using shock therapy techniques. The company of 5 actors (4 men, 1 woman) share the role of the storyâ€™s protagonist, Alex, and multi-role the other characters, creating a universality that despite its relevance, somewhat compromised the plot. The cast were dressed in smart clothes; white shirts and black trousers with skinny ties and knee high leather boots, costumes reminiscent of Alex and his gangâ€™s iconic uniform in Kubrickâ€™s film – the only things missing were mascaraed eyes and bowler hats.
Despite moments of clever and amusing theatricality, such as a man lying on the floor balancing a pint of milk on the side of his head for an absurdly long five minutes and the use of Barbie and Ken dolls to act out a sex scene, the production lacked the originality and vision of Kubrickâ€™s film. Although I wasnâ€™t bored – on the contrary I found the production rather vivid and unsettling – I didnâ€™t quite â€˜getâ€™ it. The decision to stage this well-known, widely read and successfully adapted book is surely a statement that you have something new and relevant to say. However, Iâ€™m not sure that Volcano Theatre, who despite their young cast have been producing theatre for over 25 years, really lived up to the artistic policy of being an â€˜original voice in theatreâ€™.
This ensemble led piece was well-executed, with funny moments, slick physicality and a vibrancy that pulsed throughout. But, unfortunately, it reminded me slightly of an A-Level Drama performance and I felt that Burgessâ€™ dystopian novel deserved a little more than what this production was able to achieve.
Volcano Theatreâ€™s A Clockwork Orange is showing at the Arcola Theatre until 21st April. For cheap tickets, take advantage of Arcolaâ€™s Pay What You Can night on Tuesdays – a good way for students to spend an inexpensive night at the theatre. Tickets go on sale at 6.30pm but queues start forming from about 6 pm so get there early to avoid disappointment!