What’s it gonna be then, eh?
The “ultra-violence” at the core of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange is more or less intact in Jobsite Theater’s staged version, opening with a preview performance tonight at the Straz Center in Tampa.
Unlike the well-known Stanley Kubrick-directed film version of A Clockwork Orange, however, the heinous crimes committed by teenage Alex and his gang of miscreant “Droogs” are not graphically depicted onstage. There’s no blood.
There are fight scenes, sure, but they’re balletic in their almost slo-mo, orchestrated choreography. And forget about the horrendous gender-specific and highly sexualized acts of the film. They take place offstage.
Burgess himself – never a fan of the Kubrick interpretation of his book – wrote the play script, and the songs sporadically sung by the cast. The essence of the story is this: In a dystopian near-future, the government attempts to “perfect” a sadistic young Londoner by artificially sensitizing him to the violence and mayhem he so loves.
According to Jobsite director Dan Granke, the central question is about “the perfectibility” of man.
“Burgess spares no one,” Granke explains. “It’s not science is better than religion, or religion is better than science – they’re both failing in this play. The family and the chosen friends – they’re both failing him in this play.”
Granke, along with the cast and crew, talked long into the night about A Clockwork Orange and what it’s trying to tell us.
“One of the things I think got lost in the Kubrick movie is that it is about youth,” Granke says. “I mean, Alex says at one point he’s 14 when he’s committing all these horrible acts.”
As for the ever-present violence, “We’re not glorifying it, we’re just talking about it in a way that we need to talk about those things in society.”
Granke’s ensemble is diverse in terms of gender and race. And the actors are all young; many are in their early 20s.
“Rather than trying to figure out ‘Who’s going to play the old people,’ and try to make that work, what if this is actually just a bunch of young people telling a young person’s story?” the director explains.
“We sat down and said ‘This is a young person’s story, right?’ This is a story about how all the established systems are failing this one young person in particular, Alex. So what if it’s all these young kids making fun or and satirizing, and pointing out – as young people do – the failures of the systems built by the old?”
The Jobsite collective, from the director down, was dedicated to giving what amounts to a timeless cautionary take a contemporary feel – so that it didn’t look like, in Granke’s words, “a museum piece.”
Part of that, of course, was to put aside the white uniforms, bowler hats and leering Malcolm McDowell-isms of the famous movie. And get right to the heart of A Clockwork Orange.
“Even as I read the script,” says Granke, “it was hard to get the incredibly provocative images that Kubrick makes out of my head. It was a shadow over all of us, including design choices.
“But part of the fun overall was all of us opening up and going ‘We really don’t have to be bound by that.’ In fact, to ty to ‘do’ the movie would do the script a disservice. Because it’s so different in its attitude and its tact.
“Kubrick’s hyper-realism is cool, and it’s a thing. He created something interesting and different with the story. But I think the source material, the novel and the play, are much more allegorical. Much more meant to be read non-realistically.”
A Clockwork Orange runs through March 27. Info and tickets are here.