The stage lights come down, a terrifying maelstrom of machinery and marching blares from the overhead speakers, then silence. Heavy silence as I sit there, glaring at the stage, wondering in awe what will happen next. After around a solid minute of silence, and a fragmented logorrhoea of what I can only assume consisted of the juvenile slang the book made famous, started spewing forth from the actors lined up right at the edge of the stage. I’m only a minute and a half into this play, and already I’m incredibly confused.
Fear not, dear reader, for this is not a criticism of the play by any stretch of the imagination. The play only gradually reveals its innovative style of providing monologues from the same character through different actors, starting from the vague, jumbled mass of dialogue and weaving its way into the audience’s mind. To me, having the audience work it all out for themselves is something I find incredibly enjoyable about adaptations such as this, as it puts the audience in a mindset fit for applying their own interpretations.
Events in the story are told not just through narration and mime alone, but also through a devious combination of the two. As mentioned before, the narration switches between actors numerous times, and even the actors themselves switch roles just as frequently. This, I feel, creates a disorienting atmosphere which only adds to the shocking, disturbing theme with which A Clockwork Orange is commonly associated.
As innovative as the narrative style is however, narrative techniques are all for nought if the features of the story themselves hold no weight. Thankfully, the account of Alex DeLarge’s horrifying journey through varying personality changes is very nicely balanced. Alarming scenes of violence and torture ensue at various points, right down to the notorious scene when Alex is subjected to the controversial ‘Ludovico Technique’.
However, in contrast to such moments there are also instances of mild comedy interspersed throughout the first half of the play, which are helped enormously by some fine examples of powerful voices from the actors. Although it may seem that certain comical moments are hard for the audience to take seriously, particularly the copious amounts of swearing which repeat to the point where they start losing impact in terms of shock value, such feelings hardly matter seeing as these humorous moments provide a nice contrast to the more provocative moments in the play. By lessening the impact in some areas, the impact is magnified in other, more appropriate areas, and this makes for a fantastic combination.
The basic essence of Volcano Theatre’s interpretation of Anthony Burgess’s story will most certainly confound those who go into the productions under the impressions set by the famous 1971 film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick. Let it be known, however, that this is not the same story. It is certainly not the same style of narrative. The play exists as its own entity, which displays a recognisably outrageous, yet thought-provoking tale in its own unique way, allowing itself to stand out amongst other straight page-to-stage adaptations. A Clockwork Orange really is a dark, philosophical story like no other, and the only way for one to come up with one’s own interpretation is to experience it for oneself, for words alone may not be able to do this distinctive take on narrative conventions justice. Watch the play for yourself, and decide. In fact, bring your fellow droogs along, too!