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A CurtainUp London Review
A Clockwork Orange
"This vicious young hoodlum will be transformed out of all recognition."— Minister of the Interior
A Clockwork Orange
Jonno Davies as Alex (Photo: Matt Martin)
So much of theatre and one's reaction to it is to do with expectation. So coming to the production by Action To The Word of A Clockwork Orange with memories of the high art music alongside explicit violence and the charisma of Malcolm McDowell in Stanley Kubrick's iconic 1971 film, there are expectations. What I found was a version of A Clockwork Orange choreographed exquisitely with an all male cast wearing ballet shoes instead of Doc Martin's and coiffed hairstyles instead of bowlers.

The dance opening, like the opening scenes between the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story is a thrilling choreographed fight between two gangs of young men who obviously spend hours in the gym to achieve their magnificent physique and are waxed to within an inch of their life. In the round space of the main, 200 seat auditorium, at the Park Theatre, it works very well.

Apart from the negative images of black vest white braces, and white vest black braces, it is impossible to tell the two gangs apart but one is led by Alex De Large, the leader of the Droogs (Jonno Davies). He is nasty and brutal and violent. In the milk bar, the singer of the choral movement of Beethoven's Glorious Ninth, that introduces the audience to Alex's love of music, is a man, not a woman.

What we see in this production is close to homoerotic pornography. The cast are first and foremost dancers not actors and I am sad to say that some of the ensemble interpretation of female parts is close to the hissy fit school of acting. This interferes with the suspension of disbelief. The rape scenes will be man on man and the pivotal one involving the writer's wife doesn't really work with young men playing both elderly roles.

Beyond his physique and dance skills, I found Jonno Davies lacking the charisma that the part of Alex needs to succeed. We should be repelled by his violence but attracted by his personality. His voice ought to resonate, his presence to be more imposing than mere posing. The voice work is especially important as much of what Alex says is in Nadsat the codefied language of the Droogs.

However the images stay with me: the scientists in black heavy rimmed spectacles, the aversion therapy, the Ludovico technique given to Alex in prison spun round to face each of the four sides of the audience in turn. The prison conditions persist today, overcrowding and suicides, bullying and rape and of course these all male environments work well with an all male cast.

After copycat crimes of tramps being beaten to death and another rape where the protagonists sang "Singin' in the Rape", Kubrick restricted the showing of his film of A Clockwork Orange which led to it being out of circulation in Britain for 27 years.

This production does explain the meaning of the clockwork orange — something that looks natural and normal on the outside like an orange but which inside has an automaton as a centre. The analogy is with Alex who, after being subjected to the Ludovico treatment, is averse to violence not through any desire to live better but through conditioning.

This is a production for those fully appreciating beautiful dance!

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A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones
Starring: Jonno Davies
With: Luke Baverstock, Sebastian Charles, Simon Cotton, Damien Hasson, Philip Honeywell, James Smoker, Will Stokes, Tom Whitelock
Lighting Design: James Baggaley
Billy Boy Ballet Choreography: Hannah West
Running time: One hour 30 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7870 6876
Booking to 18th March 2017
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 16th February 2017 performance at The Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP
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