Boys Will Be Boys: A Clockwork Orange

Clockwork Orange - Action to the WordThe theatrical production of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ arrives in Perth this month. OUTinPerth caught up with Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones.

I read in your Director notes that you ‘dug out your old copy’ of A Clockwork Orange – before reading it what did you remember of the book from your teenage years? I remember the book as a very ‘naughty’ thing. The teacher who gave it to me gave it with the caveat that it was not to be shown to our parents and that we were not actually supposed to read it. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was the book I hid under the covers – sexy, violent and just naughty.

The novel is celebrating its 50th anniversary, when you came to adapt this story into a theatrical tale – did you find it had dated at all? Actually the book holds a mesmerising property whereby it will not age. Alex (the narrator) leaves the reader to fill in all the gaps. He tells us, for example, that he and his friends are “dressed in the very height of fashion” – that translates across time.  Unlike the film, which sadly has now dated though it was uber-modern at the time of release, the book will never age. I wanted to create a piece of theatre with a similar ageless aesthetic.

What have you learned about the behaviour of boys while creating this show? I’ve learned that boys will be boys, in life and in art. The competition of the men in the novel to be ‘top dog’ is fascinating. Alex starts as the Alpha and we see him stumble his way right down to the bottom. In the rehearsal room and on tour I’m learning that boys aren’t so different from girls. My actors are like a little band of brothers, supportive, caring and kind, held together by the commonality of their talent.

The show has been described as ‘homoerotic’ is that an accurate label? I just don’t buy ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ and think of everyone on a spectrum, it totally depends who you meet. If CWO has an appeal sexually to a ‘gay’ audience, I’m delighted – it also has an appeal to a straight audience because it is erotic. Power and confidence are always attractive, such is the protagonist of the story and as a result – the multi-characterisation ensemble.

What was the biggest challenge in putting this piece together? In the UK we built the piece from the ground up creating it for an art gallery in London’s Camden. It’s fascinating to all of us that we’re now performing it worldwide having completed a sell-out run in the West-End. The biggest challenge there was getting the support we needed to get the piece to a wider audience. The biggest challenge out here is making sure we communicate not only the Mancunian accents but the famous Nadsat of the novel.

A Clockwork Orange opens at the Subiaco Theatre Centre from Tuesday May 7, tickets available from Ticketek.

Graeme Watson

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