A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange

Many seem to have attempted to bring Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange to the stage, but more often than not they tend to be unsatisfying, unable to find the balance between style and substance.

Action to the Word company have been touring this version for a few years now, and director Alexandra Spencer Jones seems to have come the closest to making the story a genuine theatrical experience. However, the material still feels a little tortured on the stage.

The story, of course, follows fifteen-year-old Alex, who doesn't just like ultra-violence - he also enjoys rape, drugs and Beethoven's Ninth. He and his gang of droogs run rampage on the streets of the not-too-distant future until Alex is locked up and becomes the experiment of Dr. Brodsky, who plans to rid Alex of these feelings of violence. The piece is meant as an exploration of morality and free will.

Jones has gone for an all-male cast, beefing up the underlining homoerotism that has always been there. The men play the roles of women to great effect, adding much humour, but while this technique is interesting and retains a stylised approach to the work, it doesn't really seem to add anything.

What does work, though, is the music, which is used to great effect throughout, and the interesting story-based choreography keeps moving the piece forward most of the time rather than halting it. The minimal set (simple black walls and chairs and tables) works a treat for the production and the costume design is also effective and evocative.

On the stage the material loses some of its bite, but I guess that is to be expected, and while the piece is stylistically enjoyable it seems to lack some substance, especially in the first act, which gets off to a slow start.

There is no doubt that the material just does not lend itself to the stage, no matter how stylised you go with it, but this production made the ride enjoyable (though they really need to take the interval out).

The cast on the whole are fantastic, oozing youthful energy and feeling like they were ready to explode. The actors tore up the stage in every scene, playing multiple roles - both male and female - to great effect.

Adam Search as anti-hero Alex was a striking figure, commanding and strong, and most importantly made the role his own rather than a retread from the popular film. In act two his physicality was exhausting just to watch; this is more than just a committed performance.

This was never going to be a perfect transition to the stage, because I really don't think a perfect one is possible, but this is the closest we will ever get to a solid adaptation. Full of style, energy and urgency, it is flawed, but beautifully so.

- Craig Hepworth