Theatre review: Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, Pleasance Forth

Martin McCreadie as Alex
Martin McCreadie as Alex
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HYPE. The problem with hype is that by the time you’ve read through swathes of gushing “audience reviews”, absorbed the triumphant four and five-star accolades from critics and publications you’ll never read again, and listened to the ever-growing reverence with which the production is referred to, you can’t help but be disappointed.

Thoughts I harboured as the lights dimmed on the stark black box set of Action To The World’s all-male production of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.

Thankfully, this intense and well-oiled piece of theatre is every bit as captivating as the buzz would have it, if not quite as cutting edge as many claim.

Much of the mythology surrounding A Clockwork Orange comes from the 1971 movie version. Stanley Kubrick’s graphic violence, this ultra violence as author Burgess would have it, lies at the heart of the piece. That, and society’s response.

Stylised choreography brings that aggression to life in this production, juxtaposing the feral nature of the actions with a balletic poise that, through time, becomes more and more incongruous with the subject matter to hand. Alexandra Spencer-Jones’ direction at these points also serves to emasculate Burgess’ work to a degree, raising a smile that belies the horrific nature of the action.

Little Alex, or if you prefer, Little 6655321, is a droog – a ned – with a smart line in Anglo-Russian patois and a gang of three. Together they terrorise the dystopian world in which they live.

Apprehended for a particularly vile murder, Alex must serve his time, released only after undergoing a “process” that robs him of his very nature.

Played out in a monochrome land with only the odd piece of costume or prop in colour, this production never slows. Martin McCreadie carries the piece with a portrayal of Alex that is disturbing in its likeability. Wicked, cute, vulnerable and dominant in turn, he excels with sinister ease.

He is ably supported by Stephen Spencer, showing a deft range as Dim, the minister and dad, and Robin Rayner’s creepy, Leo Sayer-esque Georgie.

The cross-casting of female roles only meets with limited success, however, perhaps the only real weakness of this all-male cast.

Rating: ***

• Until August 27