A Clockwork Orange at The Everyman review A twisted yet intriguing performance

Posted on 25 May 2018
By Summer Gedall
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The Everyman was transformed into a brutal and nihilist vision of the future as Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange was re-imagined as a thought provoking, captivating and sensational theatre performance.

Burgess’s work was initially dismissed by critics as ‘minor work.’ But it went down a storm at The Everyman, with the audience fully engaged and invested in the performance.

Written in 1962, before being turned into a ‘play with music’ in 1986, this tale of ultra-violence was portrayed magnificently through abstract, satire and classical music based on Beethoven – composed specifically for the play.

Director, Nick Bagnall invites the audience into a world dominated by passions for milk, ultraviolence and Ludwig Van Beethoven as he presents a bold reimagining of Burgess’ dark, dystopian story.

A Clockwork Orange takes place in a futuristic city governed by a repressive, totalitarian super-State. The play’s protagonist – Alex, is a 15-year-old boy who leads a small gang of teenage criminals through the streets; robbing, beating and raping without a thought for the consequences of his actions.

Alex was portrayed by Everyman company actor George Caple. Alex’s cold-eyed, arrogance was captured well by Caple as he was miraculously able to bring the audience on a conflicting journey of resentment and empathy – unexpected given the stomach-churning nature of his crimes.

Using a deft theatrical device, Alex engages the audience, breaking the fourth wall and asking them to consider their own morality.

The government’s efforts to reduce crime rates initially seems entirely plausible, but as their horrific methods become apparent, it raises the issue of free will and choice – something British people expect as a basic human right.

If you are unfamiliar with Burgess’s novel, it is difficult to gauge what is happening in the first scenes of the play as Alex and his ‘droogs’ are introduced to us. The first scene features an episodic series of violent crimes taking place, conveyed by abstract choreography and music produced by produced by Etta Murfitt and James Fortune. Lyrics such as ‘What’s it going to be then?’ foreshadow the chilling nature of this play and leave the audience guessing the fate of the characters.

Many of the actors were responsible for multiple roles, and this added to both the dynamics and humour of the performance. Keddy Suttons’ performance proved particularly impressive, as she played both the governor and minister on stage at the same time. Comical, energetic and sinister, Sutton added depth to the production, with her contrasting character roles adding dramatic irony.

A minimalist all-white set combined with white futuristic costumes transformed the stage into a brutalist and nightmarish landscape.

The light and clinical stage layout was in stark contrast with the dark ideas in the play. As well as this, the pleasant and classical melodies used as a backdrop sharply juxtaposed with the sickening crimes and foul language used by the characters – creating an unsettling atmosphere.

Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the performance is that the concept feels entirely possible and relatable, especially in this day and age. With teenage and violent crime on the rise and as the Government striving to combat it. This play leaves the audience wondering whether this fiction might become a reality.

The play delves into a multitude of social and political issues and cleverly incorporates satirical humour, musical theatre and science fiction into its plot – a rarity in the world of theatre.

The Everyman’s mission is to make theatre available to all and this adaption of A Clockwork Orange included captioned, BSL and Audio Descriptions into the performance – making it accessible for everyone. It is near impossible to find negatives of this gripping adaptation and is a must see for anyone that enjoys versatile and obscure theatre production.