If you’re the kind of person who is happy resting on your laurels, then this probably isn’t the play for you. However if you feel like being shaken up then read on to discover the world of philosophical violence that Director Jonny Dancginer and his cast bring to life in this adaption of the infamous modern classic, A Clockwork Orange.
Walking in to the rehearsal room I am not quite sure what to expect, blood? Fight scenes? Torture? I only know that if this production is anything like Barricade Arts’ version of Mercury Fur then it’s going to be good, and they’re not going to pull their punches. And I’m right about one thing, this cast are good. Coming off the back of a run of London performances they are well-rehearsed and know their characters inside out.
As I sit down and begin talking with Dancigner I quickly realise that I am in for a treat. And as the preview scenes begin and the Beethoven swells I marvel at how this company have turned the glorification of violence into an art form – the choreographed fight scene seems more like a piece of dance than a brawl. And yet Dancigner seems keen to shift the focus away from A Clockwork Orange’s traditional themes of the male gaze and adolescent violence and more towards the systemised violence of the play. Gender blind casting means that we can expect scenes traditionally associated with male violence to make more general statements about the role of violence within society. Faceless Clockwork automatons bring issues of free will and personal responsibility into sharp focus and lend a threatening air of impending mechanisation to the play, making the characters who use violence to rebel seem all the more vital in comparison.
As the play progresses we see a shift in Alex’s character (played by Gerard Krasnopolski) from perpetrator of violence to victim of it. With this shift we see the performance of violence move from the physical to the psychological. Dancigner takes audience empathy to the extreme in his decision to represent Alex’s conditioning through sound, so that the violence moves from visual representation on the stage into our own heads as the extent of the violence is left for us to imagine, and we become complicit in it.
Talking with the cast after these scenes I am struck by something Natalie Lauren (playing Georgie and Brodsky) says, that we have to question whether or not the aesthetic value of something is affected by its moral status. This production boldly takes something we generally find abhorrent, sets it Beethoven, and makes it beautiful. It’s guaranteed to make you feel uncomfortable and to make you question your own morality and your position as an observer of this (albeit acted) violence. I am still haunted by the question of what it means to find aesthetic pleasure in such a brutal fictional world.
Just before I leave Dancigner tells me that although he always wants his cast to be comfortable in what they’re doing, he hopes to “traumatise the audience”. I must be a masochist because far from putting me off this makes me immediately go and buy a ticket.
A play with a clear vision, a strong cast, and creative staging choices, A Clockwork Orange is a must-see performance.