Time Out Melbourne

On the 50th anniversary of Anthony Burgess’ cult classic, a new stage version will tour Australia. We look back at a few of the gory hits and misses

1. The influence of Kubrick's 1970 film version, with Malcolm McDowell as Alex the ultraviolent droog, towers over all other adaptations. Burgess described the film as a misunderstanding that would haunt him until he died. Kubrick's decision to withdraw the film from the UK in 1973 after several copycat crimes is one reason for the popularity of stage adaptations.

2. Stalwart punk rockers Die Toten Hosen – the Dead Trousers – provided the score for a 1988 German adaptation. The band later released the soundtrack as an album and had a hit with the song 'Heir kommt Alex', which to this day is a favourite on the European festival circuit. About the rest of the production, little is remembered.

3. Described by one critic as "a clockwork lemon", the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1990 production flopped badly, relying too much on glitz and glam to wow its audience. Even a score by U2's Bono and the Edge, with an eclectic blending of hip hop, industrial and stadium rock couldn't save it. Quelle surprise.

4. Chicago's famous Steppenwolf Theater staged a well-received production in 1994, using a script by Burgess and directed by Terry Kinney (he of The Last of the Mohicans fame). As a child, Kinney had been fluent in the book's 'droog' vocabulary, and was attracted as much to the rapid, knock-along style of the writing as to its depiction of sex and violence.

5. One of the more famous modern stage adaptation is the multimedia, gender-bending ARK Theatre version from 2003, starring Vanessa Claire Smith as Alex. In contrast, the Action to the Word's production touring Melbourne this month is an all-male-all-shirtless cast with a set stripped back to the bare essentials.

A Clockwork Orange, Malthouse Theatre, Apr 6-14.

First published on . Updated on .

By Andrew Furhmann   |  

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