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A Clockwork Orange review at Citizens Theatre Glasgow

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Jeremy Raison’s farewell to the Citizens after seven years as artistic director, A Clockwork Orange is an aggressive choice. Anthony Burgess’ rough meditation on good and evil, full of intellectual and theological debate on free will, state control and the violence of youth, is re-imagined for contemporary society, complete with references to the war against terror.

While Burgess’ slang is perfect for the stage – between appropriation of Russian words and English dialect grammar, it has a clear Shakespearean rhythm – this adaptation of the novel relies heavily on exposition, and the picaresque second act is fragmented and lurches towards resolution in an awkward manner. Fortunately, Jay Taylor offers a stunning performance as anti-hero Alex. Preening like a teenage Richard III, he is an archetypal evil dandy: holding the attention even through the storytelling narratives of the first act, he drives the production forward with a decadent energy and passion.

The ensemble cast is hampered by mannered acting, the interludes of physical theatre are suggestive rather than effective. The violence is unconvincingly theatrical, not visceral – a sharply disappointing contrast to the iconic scene of Alex’s forced conversion to pacifism, which is appropriately uncomfortable.

Despite a versatile set design from Jason Southgate, that doubles effectively as depressed housing estate and sinister clinic, the play is inevitably overshadowed by Kubrick’s film. The updating of the droog’s clothing and Taylor’s dynamic presence overcome some of the script’s limitations, and the various competing ideas are given space. Nevertheless, the words stops this Orange from taking full flight.

Production Information

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, October 13-November 6

Anthony Burgess
Jeremy Raison
The Citizens Theatre Company
Jay Taylor, Derek Barr, Shaun Mason, Nicola Roy, Billy Mack
Running Time
2 hours

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