Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
A Clockwork Orange, April 9, 2013 ***
Anthony Burgess, by Action To The Word Malthouse
Theatre, April 6 to 21, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 6 Stars: ***
This review also published in Herald Sun in print or online on April 11. KH
Martin McCreadie ((L) and cast in A s Clockwork Orange
It’s a tall order to
compete with the indelible image and scorching “ultra-violence” of Malcolm
McDowell – as the brutal, frightening Alex – and his “droogs”, in Stanley
Kubric’s cult film of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.
Rather than adapting the movie,
director-choreographer, Alexandra Spencer-Jones, with ten young, male actors,
uses Burgess’s playscript that is based on his novella, and stylises the
production by using dance to portray all aggressive action.
Although an interesting
theatrical device, the choreography dilutes the pornography of violence at the
core of Alex’s life, and the style overwhelms content, limiting the sense of
menace in scenes of rape, torture and murder when the stage could be a
Alex (Martin McCreadie)
is a dysfunctional teenager who uses “ultra-violence”– fuelled by testosterone
and frustration – as entertainment, until he is imprisoned then subjected to an
invasive, government sanctioned, psychological reconditioning and aversion
McCreadie is capable and
intensely physical as Alex, capturing, through abstracted movement and
muscularity, Alex’s mindless passion for violence and classical music.
But it is in the latter
half that he is most effective, when portraying Alex’s despair and confusion
after his treatment, when he is nauseated by the thought of violence and by the
sound of his beloved Beethoven.
adolescent slang called Nadstat, presages 21st century street-gang
lingo and, blended with scattered Shakespearean vocabulary, it provides an
inspired mode of communication designed to alienate outsiders and oldies.
Strangely, although this
is a play about physical brutality told through movement, the most potent
depiction of savagery is not through dance or visual imagery, but through words
describing brutal scenes of concentration camps, war, torture and rape during
Alex uses women as sex
objects and punching bags but, with the cast of young men playing multiple
roles including females, it is often difficult to discern when they are playing
women, so the story morphs into a homoerotic tale about young, gay men.
Many characters become
simple caricatures, the figures of power in government, prison and hospital are
trivialised, and Burgess’s message about free will sounds preachy in the final
The production lacks a
sense of irony and misses the backhanded comedy that can trigger our horrified,
guilty laugh at Alex’s viciousness, but it provides a new view of Burgess’s