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Mention the title, A Clockwork Orange, and invariably a person’s thoughts are drawn to Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ famous dystopian tale. Lancaster University Theatre Group developed their own theatrical version of this literary 60s classic, and somehow combined it with music? To clarify; this is a play, not a musical, but a play where music helps to support the narrative structure.
A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music
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Alexander David Leonard
Assistant Stage Manager
The Nuffield theatre has been arranged specifically for the event, with a central stage and large round tables surrounding the stage. Allowing the audience to combine an evening in the theatre with their drinks, something that most students would definitely approve.
The tale is told in two acts, the first half is the lead-up to the infamous Ludovico technique, whilst the second half deals with the consequences. This is in contrast to the original three acts, but suits the dramatisation perfectly.
The production begins with a song where the instrumental music is light-hearted, thinly veiling the menacing lyrics which carry their threatening message; violence is coming. But a problem arises with this play because the audience is given very little time to come to grips with the protagonist’s, Alex, mode of speech before the action commences. Consequently some of the meaning could be lost during the initial scenes.
The actor who portrayed Alex more than compensates for this minor failing, delivering a character with quick wits and a believable desire for mindless violence, precisely the character written by Burgess. He remains convincing during his brief portrayal of a repentant prisoner during his conversations with the priest, and is even more convincing as the story unfolds.
The priest provides the opportunity for several comical moments, as he waxes lyrically highlighting the virtues of young Alex, whilst Alex himself acts against the comments made by the priest providing the proof that his true nature is entirely unreformed. When the priest discovers that the prisoner has been reformed by the Ludovico technique, it forces him to question the matter of free will. He decides that because he has free will, he should exercise it, which, perhaps inevitably, leads him to seek a career in a brewery.
Alex’s droogs are excellent, seamlessly switching between providing his heavy muscle, the police force of a corrupt state, and then returning to their role as his ‘men’.
This version is described as “a play with music,” where the music is singing. Unfortunately one member of the cast, for whatever reason, did not deliver to the same standard as the rest and this detracted slightly from the experience. I hope that on subsequent nights this problem did not occur.
The verdict? Well, considering the ticket is priced at £6 for students, this particular version of Burgess’ tale is definitely worth seeing!