Pictured above: A scene from A Clockwork Orange at the Arcola Theatre
Published: 12 April, 2012
by SIMON WROE
Volcano is a Welsh theatre company who use the words “audacious” and “original” to describe what they do.
It is certainly audacious to cut Anthony Burgess’s novel, with all its dazzling linguistic inventiveness, down to 75 minutes and still find time for glib self-reference and an American ranting about the decline of the British Empire.
It is original to remove all piano and leave only forte in a work moored so closely to classical music, as it would be original for an orchestra to play the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth over and over again.
The cast of five lead us through a selection of scenes from the life of young Alex, a hoodlum with a taste for spiked milk, the slang language of “Nadsat” and lashings of “the ultraviolence”.
It’s a nice idea to alternate the title role through the cast, and all of the actors are competent.
However, in practise it’s a mess. Why is everyone shouting? Are their copies of the text entirely in capitals?
Each scene swiftly descends into violence as Alex and his fellow “droogs” bully and beat and rape anyone who crosses their path.
Under Paul Davies’s monotone direction, the production starts to feel like the work of droogs performed by droogs.
Alex is supposed to be a more complex character than his actions belie, and in the book his passion for classical music, particularly Beethoven, shows a person who can find joy in beauty as well as the uglier parts of life.
Here that too is lost. Listening to “lovely lovely Ludvig van” is a hysterical intermission between other pieces of hysteria.
On a good note, there is fine movement work from Catherine Bennett and clever use of film throughout.
There are also some genuinely interesting moments among the madness.
The scene where a murder is repeated with ever increasing speed is exactly the sort of witty absurdity that Burgess (and Kubrick) would have approved of.
But in the end it’s both too much and too little.
In the language of Alex and his droogs, what can you viddy or sloosh when you’re being tolchocked about the gulliver?
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