A Clockwork Orange

Tue 20th – Sat 24th May 2014


Christy Edwall

at 09:27 on 21st May 2014



If you know A Clockwork Orange, you might be prepared for the Cambridge Shortlegs/Dryden Society production’s odd mixture of contemporary familiarity and dystopia. If you go, as I did, to the play with a blank slate of expectations, prepare yourself for an immersion in rabid and rich dialogue, loud music, choreographed confrontations, and shrieking morality.

Josephine Parkinson’s set is malleable, making an effective use of wheeled walls. The play begins in a ‘milk parlour’ outfitted with cow-print furniture, pink and pistachio-coloured walls, and presided over by a sinister large pink bovine mask. Alex (Mark Milligan), the ringleader of a group of young hoodlums, speaks to his minions (‘droogs’) in a kind of garbled Shakespeare, a flash-poetry of his own invention. The droogs are hot-headed scum with an adolescent thirst for excitement. Their early fight with a rival gang is an impressive display of stylised violence choreographed by Robbie Taylor Hunt. The reverse set presents a grey graffiti walled slum, where Alex and his droogs get their violent kicks.

Milligan gave a startling and virtuosic performance. Alex’s trademark speech – in which ‘words come it-ting out of his gulliver’ – sounds effortless in Milligan’s mouth, and this is half of the battle. The other half is alternating slyness and gormlessness, which Milligan moves lightly between.

Apart from Milligan and Georgie Henley as a hellfire-ranting prison chaplain, the play’s performances are disjointed and alienating, plasticine in delivery, but still compelling. A special mention must go to Rosanna Suppa, who played the prison drill sergeant – loud, squinting, obsequiously abrupt – with marvellous mimicry. The governmental jargon promoted by the (delightfully) sock-puppeted Minister of the Interior lends itself to a certain robotism. The odd performances seem intended to make the audience feel ill at ease, caught in dystopia ourselves, stuck between admiration for Burgess’ powerful language and fear of being bludgeoned over the head with his moral.

The play’s conclusion, taken from the final chapter of Burgess’ book – omitted by Kubrick – may have surprised those familiar with the film, but it was delivered with the persuasive ease of a Shakespearean epilogue. Hats off to a daring and energetic performance of a jittery modern classic.


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