It's a peculiar achievement of Alexandra Spencer-Jones's raunchy production of Anthony Burgess's play (based on his 1962 novella) that it makes the story rather enjoyable. It's peculiar because ever since Stanley Kubrick's film, the tale of Alex and his gang of droogs on a teenage rampage of rape and 'ultra violence' has been considered a shocking indictment of violence in society.
Spencer-Jones however turns the story into an all-male, homoerotic pageant. If not specifically gay, the actors sporting black vests and tight trousers spend a good deal of time between fist-fights pumping each other off in their pants. And there's more writhing with sweaty bench-press torsos than you'd get from a bag of priapic snakes.
This of course looks great and choreographed fight routines are like 'Swan Lake' meets 'The Matrix'. To go with this there is a score that toys with gay classics such as Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Relax', as well as plenty of Alex's beloved Beethoven – some of it set to rock guitar. And when the cops or 'rozzers' show up, it's like the gang getting arrested by The Village People.
But at the centre of the saucy vortex Martin McCreadie makes a vigorous, handsome and charismatic Alex – as mad, bad and dangerous to know as a body-building Ronnie Kray. What is lost, however, in this micro-carnival of penile servitude is the book and film's indictment of the youths' distressing violence against women. Instead Alex and his gang of 'droogs' come across like a troupe of punk ballerinas: great to watch but not especially troublesome.
This review was originally published in Time Out London.