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A Clockwork Orange

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Anthony Burgess' own stage version of his shockingly prophetic 1962 novella, his most famous book, fuelled one of the RSC's biggest flops in their Barbican phase, and has never been successfully harnessed in the theatre.

So I'll give director Alexandra Spencer-Jones (and her Action to the Word company) some credit for providing a testosterone-filled homoerotic dance show that dabbles in the dubious thrill of the crime spree without making all that much distinction between bad behaviour and brutal treatment and rehabilitation.

The show's an all-boy 80-minute vest and braces spectacular, with little differentiation in the authority figures and a proper relish for Burgess's linguistic slangy Nadsat, a brew of Slavic Cockney that manages the difficult task of matching the talk to the walk.

Previous versions, by an all-girl group at the Bloomsbury, and Northern Stage in Newcastle, have continued to struggle in the wake of Stanley Kubrick's brilliant and disturbing movie, but Martin McCreadie's muscle-rippling Alex is an extraordinarily charismatic leader of the pack, and leads some fairly impressive dance sequences on the street, in the prison and the hospital.

I'm not sure that the claims being made for the piece in the aftermath of the London riots are all that strong: Alex and the teenage droogs in the milk bar are thugs without any motivation of poverty or civil resentment. Their "combat" is credited to Lewis Penfold, their choreography to Hannah Lee of Billy Boy Ballet.

They are nasty nitwits dealing in thumps on the gulliver, fists in the plot and a crack in the kishkas real horror show hot. Pumped up with Beethoven - the Fifth, the Ninth and even dear little old Für Elise - these conscience-free hooligans use violence as a style statement, and that's the most exhilaratingly terrible thing of all.


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