The ‘old ultra violence’ gets a 21st century kick

Menacing youth: Martin McCreadie as Alex. Image: supplied
Menacing youth: Martin McCreadie as Alex. Image: supplied

With an actor’s chilling smirk and a director’s unflinching eye, Malcolm McDowell and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange delivered the last word in the telling of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novella. Or did it? A UK theatre company, and mojo‘s Georgie Moore think not. The mojo review. 


A Clockwork Orange’s nightmarish Alex DeLarge is reborn in Martin McCreadie, leading an all-male cast in a surge of gritty testosterone, in Action To The Word’s acclaimed stage adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novella.

The production premiered at the UK’s Latitude Festival and received critical acclaim at the 2011 and 2012 Edinburgh Festivals and is playing at The Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, ahead of an Australia-wide tour.

Off the back of London’s 2011 riots, and as a result of what director Alexandra Spencer-Jones sees as too many “out of shape” stage renditions, it re-poses Burgess’ core moral dilemma: is it preferable to choose to be bad or be forced into goodness?

Alex and his ‘droogs’ – Pete (Eddie Usher), Georgie (James Meryk) and Dim (Stephen Spencer) – acts of ultra violence gush with homoerotic animalism that underscore the production’s fascination with boys’ behaviour. However, Spencer-Jones is adamant the play is neither gay nor straight.

It updates Burgess’ original song selection with tracks from major artists, including David Bowie, Placebo and the Scissor Sisters, tied together by Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

This, combined with hyperbolic and balletic choreography, follows Burgess’ 1968 stage adaptation and further filters the bashings, gang rapes and murders so lasciviously enacted in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film.

Alex’s savagery is also contrasted with the poetic nadsat of his generation (an amalgamation of Russo-Anglo-American slang) and his adoration of Ludwig Van – a dismissal of high art as a civilising force.

The production goes on to mock its society’s religious obsession with decency – the tug-o-war between “original sin” and “good Christian” behaviour – while the powers that be are as cruel and violent as the crime they attempt to eradicate.

This results in a reclamation of the story’s original spirit, complete with a final scene, that resigns youth to an endless cycle of violence and presents the audience with an ever-relevant allegory to youth dissatisfaction and social unrest.

A Clockwork Orange plays at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, until April 21; at The Seymour Centre, Sydney, from April 23; Subiaco Arts Centre, Perth, from May 7; The Playhouse, Canberra, from May 22; and The Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane, from May 28.