A Clockwork Orange, George Caple as Alex-Photograph by Marc Brenner

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner.

The film version of the Anthony Burgess novel, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was not an easy watch when I first attempted it, 2 decades ago. Fast forward to 2018 and the Everyman Repertory Company bring the tale of an anti-hero, Alex DeLarge, to the stage. A production that truly delivers in terms of its direction, design and performance.

As the play opens we see Alex (George Caple) bathed in ultraviolet light, conducting his own symphony to the strains of Beethoven’s “glorious ninth.” The droogs watch over with an air of menacing nonchalance before they embark on their spree of ultraviolence. Acts of violence in this production are given more nuance and portrayed less graphically than in the film. At times it feels like we are watching a dance. Actors move with poise and grace around the simple, yet highly effective set created by Molly Lacey Davis and Jocelyn Meall.

Ladders on each corner of the stage serve as a means to both spectate and violate. The inventive use of a rising platform centre stage and trap doors stage left and right are used to great effect. Entrances and exits are as smooth and as slick as the patter of the politicians who are satirised. It is clear to see that their desire to “kill the criminal impulse.” This is nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to curry favour with the pre-election public at the expense of Alex, a teenage product of a nihilistic society.

There are many strong performances in this production. George Caple brings an unexpected vulnerability to the role of Alex. Keddy Sutton also manages to play a range of roles with clarity and vigour. Her portrayal of Minister of the Interior/Inferior, complete with political hand puppet, are sublime. Parroting platitudes like a sycophantic ventriloquist’s dummy.

Nick Bagnell directs this production with skill and precision. For the most part, it lives up to expectations, although on occasion lacks the shock factor so evident in the movie. “Goodness is something chosen,” says the Prison Chaplain (Richard Bremmer) taking another slug of whisky and pulling on his cigar. Yet we are left in no doubt that the brutality meted out to Alex is as equally savage as the acts for which he finds himself incarcerated. Stunning visual images, gruesome, and garish are projected onto the stage beneath him as Alex writhes in pain whilst undergoing the Pavlovian-inspired Ludovico technique.

“Violence is nauseating,” yet in this production also strangely beautiful, poetic and driven by a soundtrack as rousing as any Beethoven symphony. Peter Mitchell’s live percussion and the use of melodic harmonies, sung beautifully by members of the company create a jarring contrast to the barbarism at the heart of this piece.

You can check out what else is on at the Everyman in the coming months from their What’s On Section!

Helen Jeffery

Helen is a graduate of Warwick University and The Playwright’s Programme at The Liverpool Everyman. Her first play, The Brink, was performed at venues in Liverpool (The Lantern Theatre, The Unity) Manchester (Kings Arms) & London (Theatre503) to critical acclaim. In 2017, her play, Gun Metal Blue was awarded the Blink Theatre Award for new writing and she has recently adapted Midsummer Night’s Dream for Daniel Taylor’s Production at the Epstein Theatre, Liverpool.