Not that horrific at all...Johannes Hjorth

I hate to have to begin with “there were some good bits”, but that’s really just it. Marthe de Ferrer and Ruth O'Connell Brown’s A Clockwork Orange certainly displayed some creative ideas and it's clear a good amount of thought and study of the text went into it the production. The whole stage was put to good use, the performance was visually beautiful and on the whole it was all fairly well directed. Jossie Evans’s musical input was flawless, with each chosen track eerily stitching the scenes together into a jaunty and jarring cabaret. Considering the significance of music in the story, I was relieved that this was not overlooked and delighted that it was, in fact, capitalised upon.

Praise must also go to the actors who, on the whole, did a rather good job. In particular, Rosanna Suppa’s portrayal of Georgie was engaging and vivacious, and the fluid interaction between her, Robbie Taylor Hunt (as Dim) and Ryan Monk (as Pete) was engaging in scenes that might otherwise have been slow. Georgie Henley’s Chaplain was difficult to pin down – at some points coarse and overplayed, but often thought-provokingly ridiculous. And, of course, not enough can be said about the magnificent Mark Milligan who really did steal the show, switching seamlessly from demonic menace, to shrieking torture victim, to scared, broken little boy. His performance was deft and moving, particularly during his monologues, which allowed his character to truly overwhelm the stage and shake the audience. Those were some spectacular moments.

Overall though, the tone of the play just wasn’t quite right. Boldly subtitled on all the posters as “real horrorshow”, I was disappointed to find that the play wasn’t really that horrific at all. It was full of lines which had been dragged kicking and screaming into awkward comedy when they needed to be left dark and sinister. The torture scene left me unmoved. The music and the screaming were too loud, leaving the quite powerful text completely drowned. Kate Reid’s departing scene as Dr Branom was, in my opinion, considerably underplayed, with so much opportunity for some really heightened emotional thunder wasted in a throwaway stiff-upper-lip-let’s-not-talk-about-our-feelings minute and a half.

Maybe this is my problem with Cambridge theatre in general: everyone’s just too frightened of taking themselves seriously and loading a production with the passion it needs to move an audience. I wanted scary, dark and violent; I got tame torture and an awkward, cynical satire of a script that needed no dampening down. For A Clockwork Orange to stand in its own well-earned right, it needs to shock, and unfortunately that is something this play did not do. So, yes, there were some good bits. I just hope that next time they aren’t so bloody British about it that Burgess’s brutal hound is domesticated into a slightly cross-looking poodle.

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