Anthony Burgess took A Clockwork Orange to US
publishers, he was told that American readers would not be convinced
by the novel's final chapter of redemption and hope and that it
should therefore be cut from the text. It did not reappear in US
editions until 1986 and it was this darker version of the story that
Stanley Kubrick used as the basis for his 1971 film.
new stage adaptation, however, with libretto by Ed DuRanté and
music by Fred Carl, takes inspiration from the novel's original
ending, making Alex, the show's sociopathic anti-hero, ultimately see
the error of his ways and renounce the violent code by which he has
lived his life.
and his gang – dubbed “droogs” in the book but referred to as
“ninjas” in this version, just one example of how DuRanté has
subtly and effectively updated the anarchic language of the book to
fit modern youth culture – are menaces to society. They
intimidate, rob and attack for their own entertainment, and have no
qualms about picking on even the weakest of individuals. Alex seems
invincible, until a power struggle leads to a set-up that sees Alex
arrested, charged and imprisoned for murder. Desperate to escape his
indefinite prison term, he undergoes a controversial medical
treatment that will make him incapable of committing evil acts, and
is freed. The prison chaplain’s warning that life as a “clockwork
orange” – or unnatural being – will be unliveable, however, proves
only too prescient, and ultimately, through various plot twists,
Alex is led to the realisation that he must change his ways.
reportedly decided not to include the novel's final chapter in his film because he felt
it was unconvincing and inconsistent with the rest of the story.
Watching director Dawn Reid's otherwise entertaining production,
you can see his point. Ashley Hunter is captivating as Alex, but the
character's swift turnaround from sadist to good guy is too big an
ask, even for a performer of Hunter's obvious talents. This version
may be more true in its message to the one that Burgess intended than
the Kubrick film, but after the darkness and humour of the majority
of the show, the answers its ending offers feel trite and
of plotting aside, Carl's jazz and funk-inspired score is
thrilling to listen to, particularly in those moments when fragments
of music echo and punctuate the violence and chaos of the story. Not
all the numbers are entirely persuasive – the score is at its best
when steering clear of traditional musical theatre style songs –
but there's enough ambition and risk-taking here to make us feel that
we're witnessing something truly original.