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Review: A Clockwork Orange (Park Theatre)

Physical theatre company Action To The Word present their all-male version of Anthony Burgess' novel

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Whether or not you're familiar with Anthony Burgess's disturbing novel or Stanley Kubrick's even more disturbing film, this interpretation from Action To The Word has a balletic precision. It propels you mercilessly into a hideous world of drug-fuelled violence, as meted out by 15 year-old Alexander and his gang of droogs.

Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones writes that Burgess's story still has a chilling resonance for our times, and is 'painfully relevant'. She's right as regards the revelation that the biggest, most brutal bullies can end up as the ones in charge. Yet when even children – and certainly teens – have constant online access to material horrific beyond imagination, Burgess's notion of successful aversion-therapy provoked by images of beheading and wartime torture seems curiously anachronistic.

The insolent, outrageously cruel Alex is played with brutal splendour by Jonno Davies, who flaunts his physical prowess over his mates with an arrogant assurance that makes his later enfeebled state all the more striking.

He's aided and abetted by Luke Baverstocks' Georgie and Tom Whitelock as Pete. Sebastian Charles gives Dim a solid power despite the character's intellectual shortcomings, and he also plays the cuckoo-in-the-nest lodger with sinister cool.

Spencer-Jones' production is super-stylised. Choreographed (in part at least by Hannah Lee) with more than a nod to the Cool boys of West Side Story, these bad lads cavort with grace and swagger in ultra-violence set pieces that dazzle with their visual imagination.

As dancers in tight leggings, vests and white braces, they're certainly clothed more gracefully than Malcom McDowell in the 1972 film, though there's no programme credit for either set or costume design.

The soundtrack mixes Alex's beloved Beethoven with a 20th century pop selection, and James Baggaley's exceptional lighting work brings a suitably bleak, dystopian atmosphere to the production.

Alex is a veteran of the criminal justice system, but some of the authority figures are apparently being played for laughs – almost to the point of pantomime at times. It's also disappointing that the women are uniformly caricatured by the all-male cast, from the doddery murder victim, to Alex's mother, simpering over her handsome lodger.

But these are quibbles. Taken as a whole, this crisply directed and fabulously choreographed production takes a thoroughly nasty bunch and charts their fall and rise with an intensity that makes you very glad they don't live in your part of the world.

Except, perhaps, they do.

A Clockwork Orange runs at the Park Theatre until 18 March.