What’s it gonna be then, eh?
A scene from A Clockwork Orange at the Arcola Theatre, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Either a Kubrick film-inspired version with lots of ultra violence and horrorshow groodies, or a more sober examination focusing on concepts of free will and behaviourism.
In the end, of course, this being a production by the singular Volcano theatre company, we get neither but an arresting, experimental, oblique and relentless interpretation of Anthony Burgess’ 50 year old novella that early on sacrifices plot and character for a bracing, conceptual approach of vivid impressions.
So the character of “your humble narrator” is split across the cast of five - perhaps suggesting we all have something of Alex inside of us - physicality is at its heart with actors violently convulsing as if being hit but there is no physical contact, while it constantly cuts to audacious interpretations of the books ‘highlights’ such as the vicious surprise attack on a secluded house played out with Ken and Barbie dolls.
Radical, and acted out with a ferocious intensity by the young cast, it would go down a storm at a Clockwork Orange conference, but those who don’t know the story might leave still scrambling for illumination, while those who do will miss any kind of empathy with the characters who are never allowed to develop in this fragmented, highly theatrical assault.