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Review of A Clockwork Orange performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Written in 1962 by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange remains even today one of the most controversial stories of all time. Maybe most of this controversy comes from its 1971 film version, which was even withdrawn by its own director Stanley Kubrick, and only became wildly available after his death. Maybe less familiar is the stage version which was adapted by the author himself.

Perhaps due a little to the passage of time, the University Of Northampton's vivid performance felt more powerful than the film. Violence on film has become common place so Malcolm McDowell and his droogs attacks have become less powerful on screen. On stage however, much of that violence is more offered in the mind and to that extent feels more powerful. The clever use of screens in particular removing the more barbaric scenes slightly away from the eye and more into the mind.

Playing Alex is Sam Billy Behan, once again in the lead following his epic performance as Macbeth. He is the same commanding presence and on stage through much of the play. His depiction is every bit the well spoken thug required, but adds surprising amounts of comedy to the role. Indeed the whole play has an edge of more comfortable humour than the film itself. It may be wrong to laugh at such scenes, but those like the cat lady scene have a great deal more comic moments in them than the film, particularly with our two cats (the all preening and paw washing Jessica Kay and Leanne Dallman) a glorious relief. The later inheritance shots on the back screen an added delight. I can only assume that the cat ladies demise at the hands of Beethoven is more a props issue than a direct alteration from the original film, although it is indeed more in keeping with the original book and not Kubrick's surreal portrayal.

While Behan remains Alex, the rest of the cast juggle multiple roles with ease. Jessica Kay is a delight, either as the aforementioned cat or her main role as The Minister, complete with fetching costume and hat. Ben Stacey meanwhile in his main role as Dim is a glorious comic performance, but also offers a scary presence with his size. As fellow droog, Georgie played by Kate Fenwick offers a huge performance especially considering her size, especially compared with Stacey. The final member Pete is played with surprising calm by Joshua Thomas considering the activities they get up to. He comes across as quite a soft and gentle actor on stage, which is a pleasant thing, especially in such a tough story. He also takes, what in the third row felt like the most real kick to the head I ever wish to witness.

The droogs activities are also where the clever combat and choreographed movement rears its head. They take part in some dramatic and tough sequences which are dazzling to view. They are also occasionally humorous, their battle with the bookworm (Julia Nolan) is a comic feast and contains its fair share of danger, but all is well and nothing is dropped.

Returning to the cast, when not a cat, Leanne Dallman is a rather interesting correctional officer, generally more allure than authority and to a certain amount more like Kubrick's film (despite the gender difference), it is an excellent little performance. Julia Nolan is a delight as Brodsky, tough and dependable in those famous video correctional scenes, as key a scene as that initial and brutal home raid.

It truly is fascinating to see the story portrayed on stage and director Simon Cole has created a vivid version with his young cast. I have to say I missed the famous synthesiser music of the film, as well as Singin' In The Rain. It was however a captivating and powerful production from all of the performers and Sam Billy Behan a domineering presence throughout. Certainly not a real horrorshow, very much a right righty right.


Performance reviewed: Saturday 14th March, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

A Clockwork Orange was one of three show being performed at the Royal by the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Actors. Details of each are below.
A Clockwork Orange: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/AClockworkOrange/?view=Standard
The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/LastDaysOfJudas/?view=Standard
Dying For It: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Royal/DyingForIt/?view=Standard
Details of Royal & Derngate can be found by visiting their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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