REVIEW: SUD's A Clockwork Orange

Few texts in the literary canon were as shocking on release as Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.  Even fewer still are able to continue confronting their audience some fifty-five years later.  Yet it is with a both entrancing and painful weight of relevance that A Clockwork Orangesits before us today, masterfully staged by directors Bianca Farmakis & Shevvi Barret-Brown.
The story centres on Alex De Large, a teenage delinquent who, with his band of “droogs”, enjoys terrorising his neighbourhood by any means necessary: assaulting, raping, murdering… and listening to classical music.  But Alex’s world comes crashing down around him when he becomes the subject of a controversial new criminal rehabilitation method, known as the Ludovico technique. 
The text, in all its adaptations, is preoccupied with the notion of choice, one that remains ever-important in today’s divisive political sphere.  As one character puts it, “when a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man”.  Perhaps, then, it was only natural to expect that SUDS’ adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange would be defined by powerful creative choices. 
These creative choices are in motion from the very start; the play opens with its narrator (Harriet Cronely in one of the strongest performances of the night) greeting her audience.  Only, this narrator does not sport the iconic black-and-white outfit we’ve come to associate with Kubrick’s film adaptation.  No: Cronely captures the audience’s attention with every word, wearing technicolour and fishnet stockings as she does so.  Clever use of an audiovisual projector on the set’s back wall also peppers the opening with an enigmatic sense of artistic licence.  It is not long, however, until we are in familiar territory.
From the very moment he delivers his first line, Josh Wooller is supremely convincing in his portrayal of the unruly protagonist.  Wooller (in his SUDS debut) executes De Large’s mischievous aura with absolute finesse, but is also able to effortlessly communicate the character’s vulnerability.  For all his flaws, his violence, his repugnance: this character is human. As De Large, Wooller worms his way into the face of every audience member to hold a mirror. 
It is a shame, however, that De Large’s associates cannot always match his energy.  While Dim, Georgie and Pete (Tim McNaught, Amber Cunneen and Henry Hulme respectively) are individually strong, they often fail to capture the boisterous quality of their characters.  The bullish camaraderie isn’t quite there all the time.
On that note, this is a big production; with nineteen performers on stage, it almost quadruples the cast of SUDS’ last show.  Perhaps the enormity of the cast is to account for the fact that accents are not always consistent between characters, or throughout the show.  While John Kennedy and Diana Reid pull off colourful Scottish and Irish accents respectively, others seem to lose footing in maintaining their delivery throughout.  This, along with general stumbling over lines from time to time, put a damper on the powerfully emotional dialogue delivered throughout the show.
There certainly are, however, some exceptional performances from this supporting cast.  Cam Gooley shines as De Large’s hilariously disaffected father, while Diana Reid doubles up well as a non-chalant cat lady and an intense Irish doctor.  Max Peacock also manages to craft two distinct characters, both of whom develop the text’s ideas about authority in nuanced ways.
What can certainly be said is that this production has struck a vibrant balance between the text we know, and the creativity we expect from SUDS.  Whether that’s the Tarantino-esque soundtrack, Bianca Farmakis’ stunning dramaturgy or the modernised Ludovico film, this is a production that is not afraid to make different choices to those of its predecessors.  It’s reaped the rewards from doing that, and it’s certainly one to see if you’re able to get your hands on the few tickets that remain.

Pulp Editors