Following rave reviews in London and recently in Melbourne, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is set for its Australian season in the 50th anniversary year of the book’s original release, a testosterone fuelled, electrifying theatrical adaptation of the best-selling novel, which was adapted into Stanley Kubrick’s cult film in 1971.
Both the original literary source and film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange have become seminal icons in popular culture and remain as relevant today as when they first entered the cultural psyche.
An unapologetic, visceral exploration of humanity in a “fictional” world full of violence, corruption and redemption, A Clockwork Orange mirrors society past-and-present and the human condition through the glorious glass-edged nastiness of Manchester’s underworld.
Written and narrated in Nadsat – an Anglo-Russian concoction of colloquialisms that are used by the “youth of tomorrow” in a near Shakespearean lexicon of funny phrase making and jazzy-riffs. Alex and his Droogs in their battle against the tedium of adolescence choose violence and sexual desire in a dangerous cocktail as the young men battle through the difficulties of youth.
The vicious plot of Burgess’s novel follows the disturbing life of Alex and his obsession with violence, eventually resulting in his imprisonment and participation in the distressing Ludovico experiment that claims to decriminalise convicts in two weeks through drastic psychological conditioning.
Alex is traumatised and is confronted by past friends and enemies who isolate him further from society. Driven to attempted suicide by a side-effect of the treatment that left him unable to bear classical music, Alex’s experience is used as a weapon against government conditioning until he regains his previous love of violence and music.
A Clockwork Orange was one of the most important works of fiction of the 20th Century with prophetic sentiments that are increasingly relevant in the world today. It is a warning of an encroaching state and the dangers of having our independence robbed. It is also an optimistic view on humanity and suggests that, if given the chance, we humans have the choice to divert to goodness and a path of redemption.
The ensemble lead by actor Martin McCreadie (as Alex) is breathtaking in its treatment of the ultraviolent and highly sexual text. As in Kubrick’s film version, which uses music from Beethoven to Singin’ in the Rain, this production also heightens the atmosphere of menace with a strong soundtrack.
A mesmerising clash of musical cultures with artists including David Bowie, Gossip, Scissor Sisters, Placebo, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Pink Floyd are counterpointed with Alex’s beloved Beethoven.
A Clockwork Orange is currently performing in Sydney at the Seymour Centre ahead of an Australian tour. For more information and performance dates, visit: www.clockworkorange.com.au for details.
Image: Simon Kane