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A Clockwork Orange
Published on Wednesday, 22 August 2012
5

5 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Theatre
1-12, 14-26 Aug, 3:40pm-5:00pm
Reviewed by Allison Mckeon

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

Many parts of the novel A Clockwork Orange – its confusing slang-language, and its often disturbing and violent scenes, for example – would in theory make transcribing the story to the stage rife with difficulty. Familiarity with the movie might also be a problem; I found some of the early scenes in the film deeply unsettling (Singing in the Rain is no longer a happy-go-lucky song), and was more apprehensive than curious about how a stage show would handle some of the graphic adult content. This production, however, handles all aspects of the story from the gruesome to the gleeful with spectacular flair.

The show is stylized in a way reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and the brawling droog scenes are similar to the dance-sparring in A West Side Story. There’s obviously quite a bit of fighting, which is somehow both appropriately hyper-aggressive and graceful, even beautiful. I’d wager that a lot of the cast have at least some training in ballet. The background music oscillates from hard testosterone-fueled rock to soft and simple recordings of Moonlight Sonata, and other pieces by Alex’s beloved ‘Ludwig Van’.

Like the book, the show is thoroughly sexualized; the cast is, however, all male, so it’s homoerotic (and explicitly so). And I really liked the fact that there wasn’t a different actor for every role. Victims of sexual assault or violence in one scene were therefore in positions of power in the next – prison wardens, police officers – which made the story feel more even.

Alex, the main character, was incredible. No false eyelashes, unfortunately, but otherwise he was every inch the self-possessed, gleeful connoisseur of gratuitous violence who has fascinated and disgusted readers. There was something in his tone and demeanor I can’t place, that was chilling and thrilling with perfect exactitude; he was exactly how I pictured Anthony’s Burgess’ protagonist.

The show deserves the rare praise of being really and truly original; it’s preserved the core of the story, but radically twisted other elements with startling creativity and effectiveness. It’s fixating, appalling, and gorgeous, and manages to provoke the all-important questioning of humanity, autonomy, and agency. More simply, there’s so much going on onstage it’s never boring. It’s absolutely worth seeing, O My Brothers – one of the best shows I’ve experienced this year.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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