For anyone who has read A Clockwork Orange, any kind of adaptation immediately stands out as a very interesting project – the original novel by Anthony Burgess relies heavily on the reader imagining what is going on by providing vivid descriptions of violent robberies, rape, and questionable medical procedures. The content is so extreme and grotesque that being able to accurately reproduce it visually, in a film or on stage, and portray what most readers are only capable of imagining is a true challenge – and one that the cast and crew behind Barricade Arts was most definitely able to stand up to.
Directed by Jonny Danciger, the play follows the life of a teenage boy Alex and his three “droogs”, whose main forms of entertainment consist of spending time sipping on drugged-up milk and robbing, assaulting, and raping people in their city. In a twist of events, Alex is jailed after murdering a woman and subjected to a test trial of a new form of therapy, which aims to fight his psychopathic thoughts by teaching him to associate them with physical pain.
To bring such a dark plot to life, a cast of very strong actors is key – they need to find a balance between making the piece engaging and realistic without being too pathetic. I definitely wasn’t disappointed last night. In fact, I was genuinely creeped out by Gerard Krasnopolski at many points of the play: his portrayal of Alex flawlessly brought out the character’s sociopathic nature. The remaining 3 gang members (Natalie Lauren, Christian Amos, and Marcus Knight-Adams) further reinforced the atmosphere of general chaos and pathology through forming a very believable team and acing stage combat scenes. The rest of the cast, of course, was spectacular as well, with everyone contributing equally to creating a dysfunctional society.
Apart from the remarkable acting, the nightmarish atmosphere of the play was also built by an uncomfortably bare set, cleverly designed by Ariana Kalliga and Catriona Bolt. The usage of small pieces of furniture which the actors replaced during scene changes, together while large neon tubes in the back which changed pattern and color not only created an eerie mood, but also efficiently addressed the problem of the play’s frequent changes of setting, without breaking continuity of the play.
A great idea on the side of direction was developing some scenes so that audience members were able to use their imagination, as if reading the book, rather than being openly shown what’s going on. For instance, in the therapy scene, we were not actually presented with gruesome videos that rehabilitate Alex, but instead a description of these videos was read out by the doctor, accompanied by strobe lighting. This allowed us to really live through the horrors of the videos in our heads – a very powerful move. Having said that, it would have been nice to see a few more of these scenes, where the violence and gore was most visceral.
Nonetheless, A Clockwork Orange is a very immersive production, and the innovative adaptation, fantastic cast, and amazing visual effects make it a true pleasure to watch. I had a real dobby evening last night, and I’d recommend getting a ticket as soon as possible – they are selling fast!