Burgess’ personal adaptation of his 1962 novel into a play, following his famously reported dislike of the film, is an initial indication of its dramatic potential; one which directors de Ferrer and O’Connell Brown realised to a shockingly good extent in their production. With a well credited supporting team and a somewhat smaller, doubling cast, the show successfully negotiated the difficult balance between intensely violent and darkly comic.
Admittedly, a few minor instances lessened some of the effect of the play; for instance, the set decoration for the milk bar resembled more of a family-friendly milkshake chain than a seedy underhand counter for channelling drugs and the presence of BP logos on some of the lab coats struck as unfortunate. While the film montage and music in the re-education scene provided a sensory overload, no images they showed could ever properly convey the repulsiveness of the material needed to ‘cure’ the criminally insane, and Dr Brodsky’s emphatic narration acted more to reduce the impact than anything else. Though one fully lit scene change felt uncomfortably clunky, another immediately after Alex’s brainwashing contributed nicely to the sense of his new inhuman helplessness in the world surrounding him.
The doubling throughout the play allowed certain members of the cast to demonstrate their ranges of skill, with Rosanna Suppa’s warden surpassing her version of the droog Georgie, while Tris Hobson's Mr Deltoid delighted the audience with his ostentatious cameos, though Richard Skipper’s comic flamboyance lasted across his various personas. However, from the very start of the performance Mark Milligan outshone those around him, with the deranged contortions of his face mixing with his rolling and popping enunciations to present a truly convincing Alex; it seemed he had been made for the role.
The issues addressed here with the production are more ones of interpretation and it is worth emphasising that this performance was easily some of the best drama to be found on the ADC stage.
A Clockwork Orange is certainly worth the break from revision. The effective lighting and music, along with the undeniably strong characterisation by Milligan and supporting cast made for a wonderfully convincing portrayal of a very challenging story.