Let's not be coy about this: The initial lure of this all-male production of the dystopian Anthony Burgess classic is the fact the cast take their shirts off a lot and engage in up close and personal activities that give off a massive homoerotic charge. But there's much, much more to director Alexandra Spencer-Jones' vision than a parade of muscle and sinew. Like the Kubrick film version of Burgess's novel it's blackly comic, scathingly satirical and, unfolding in the close confines of a small theatre, even more brutal than the movie.
Jonno Davies is astonishing in the lead role of Alex and not just because of his spectacular physique. He burrows right under the skin and deep into the psyche of the teenage gang leader who gets his kicks through violence and rape, winds up in prison and undergoes a form of aversion therapy that rids him of his vicious impulses but also takes away any joy from being alive.
Themes of prison overcrowding, disenfranchised youth and the rise of gang culture are as prescient and scary now as they were when the novel came out in 1962 and Kubrick filmed it nine years later. This stage version, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2011, is very much of the moment – not only because these themes still resonate but because the intensely physical production is thrillingly, terrifyingly alive.
Making brilliant use of music (Bowie, Eurythmics, Scissor Sisters) it's part ballet, part play and the fact the supremely talented cast flit between male and female roles gives it a sometimes camp, often hugely erotic jolt. Retaining much of Burgess's slang, it's a bit confusing at first and the ending feels a bit muddled, but for most of its 90 minutes this Clockwork Orange
is quite brilliant.
A Clockwork Orange is at the Park Theatre, London, until 18 March 18. For more information and tickets visit parktheatre.co.uk
Words by Simon Button
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