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A Clockwork Orange @ Soho Theatre

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
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Put a Clockwork Orange in your stocking this Christmas
Most people are aware of Stanley Kubrick's film of A Clockwork Orange. Even if they've never seen it they're aware that he withdrew it from circulation because of the reception over its violence. It's also probably not widely realised that it was based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novella of the same name. Following the release of Kubrick's film, Burgess then penned his own play in an attempt to address the filmed adaptation, that he believed fell short of the original story.

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange (picture courtesy of sohotheatre.com)


The current production at the Soho Theatre is a dance drama performed by nine male actors. Alex, the leader of the Droogs, the teenage gang that frequently resorts to violence, is played by a strong and muscular Martin McCreadie. The other members of the cast perform the remaining 25 roles, including the female ones. If you're unfamiliar with the storyline it is of a dystopian world where adolescents speak their own language, Nadsat, and attack, rape and kill at random. After Alex receives a jail sentence for his crimes, he voluntary undergoes an experiment, the Ludovico Technique, which is designed to cure him of his violent urges. This works for a while but he reverts to his old self after his release from prison, eventually outgrowing his aggression as he matures and leaves his adolescence behind. Burgess argues that violent and aggressive behaviour is a phase that cannot be cured and will be outgrown. You may agree or not.

In a depiction that relies heavily on dance, this version becomes heavily stylised and moves away from Kubrick's sensational film with its depictions of cruelty, murder and rape. The balletic movement detracts from the violent episodes, in spite of the use of bicycle chains, knives and sticks. When events are mimed and no blood is shown to flow, the effects are mitigated although the shock value remains. The performance lasts for only eighty minutes (with no interval) but each scene flows seamlessly into the next and the choreography pulls everything together into a coherent whole. The Soho Theatre playing space is a small one so you feel drawn into the action, especially during the scenes when Alex is undergoing his therapy.

Put all thoughts of the 1971 film behind you and buy yourself a ticket to see the play that Burgess wrote; it won't disappoint.
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Why? To see an interesting production of a play that has been overshadowed by its film version
When: Until 7 January 2013. Performance times are on the website.
Where: Soho Theatre, Dean Street
Cost: 17.50 but there are concessions
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