Wednesday 22 August 2012

A Clockwork Orange Ed Fringe 2012 - Review

Pleasance Forth , Edinburgh


Written by Anthony Burgess

Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones

Martin McCreadie as Alex

Action To The Word return to Edinburgh 2012 with their acclaimed A Clockwork Orange. The company have a deserved reputation for delivering Shakespeare in a manner that is direct and accessible and their working of this 20th century classic remains a highlight of the Fringe.

For this year the company reside in the  slightly larger venue of Pleasance Forth, providing an expanded performance space for their graceful treatment of the book. Burgess' novel, with it's bleak view of Britain in the future and a cityscape dominated by violent youth suggests boots and Doc Martens . That this cast sport ballet pumps throughout emphasises the movement and grotesque beauty of the ultra-violence that they portray.

The creative team behind this production have woven the most amazing piece of theatre from their talented actors. Alexandra Spencer-Jones' direction is perceptive and she reveals the darkness of the story in both broad tableaux of violence,  alongside the most subtle of nuance and characterisation. There is barely a wasted second of any of the performers' time on stage. Spencer-Jones has been ably assisted in the choreography of the piece by Hannah Lee, two women who clearly know how best to direct an all-male cast to tell a story. Fight director Lewis Penfold has portrayed the most violent of acts in a manner that has the audience wincing, yet such is his talent to portray this grotesque brutality through simply movement and the occasional use of props that no stage blood is used throughout the show.

The story follows Alex's journey from murderous thuggery to being selected as a guinea pig for a government sponsored brainwashing scheme, to "cure" him of his criminality and return him to society. Martin McCreadie reprises the lead role in a performance of breathtaking dance and physicality. His athleticism impresses as he moves around the stage with a serpentine litheness. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Tom Hardy, he earns our abhorrence administering sometimes lethal violence with breathtaking beauty. Once brainwashed however, he evokes our sympathy as a victim whose mind has been chemically altered. McCreadie is the only cast member who stays in one role, and on stage too, throughout the play.

Without exception his fellow performers, who each play several supporting roles and when required switch gender too, excelled. Memorable were Robin Rayner's ballet of assault with a golf club, Simon Cotton's cuckoo-like usurping of Alex's place in the family home, forcing him onto the streets and Philip Honeywell's prison warder and brutalised rape victim. Neil Chinneck's compassionate yet menacing F.Alexander, Stephen Spencer's Dim and Matt Crouziere's Clown were also chilling in this brave new loveless world. Will Stokes and Damien Hasson with their Governor and authoritarian Mr Deltoid respectively matched the quality of performance of their peers. This review highlights but a few of the play's characters.  All were delivered faultlessly.

The story features Beethoven prominently -  his 5th, the “glorious” 9th , whilst the brainwashing scheme is referred to as the Ludovico technique. The company use the composer’s music cleverly throughout the show, with the Moonlight Sonata featuring, as well as an inspired inclusion of Morricone’s The Verdict (Dopo La Condanna) , drawn from Fur Elise.

This show remains a highlight of the Fringe and demands a London staging.

Runs to Augist 26th

Note - In November 2012, this production opened at London's Soho Theatre .
 Read the review here.

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