Review: A Clockwork Orange (Huge Picture Productions/Echo Productions)

A Clockword Orange hits the stage in this richly detailed theatrical production

Huge Picture ProductionsA Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music is so many good things. I know, things is not a very articulate choice of word. But there is so much to pick out of this play – it’s a mosaic of shiny little bits, one must pay attention to all the things that are going on.

Maybe a better way to say this is that this play is detail-rich.

Most of you are likely familiar with Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange, or Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation. The play version, also written by Burgess, is largely the same, with the addition of the intended ending that Kubrick’s version departed from.

Huge Picture’s treatment of the play asks all the same questions about violence, young boys, and society, captivating the intellect. But this detail orientation I talk about is what makes this treatment so special, for me. Victoria Fuller’s direction is an attentive one, and makes for a visual experience that is as stimulating as the intellectual participation the play begs.

Much of this detail is coming from the characters: there’s a lot of ‘em. Everybody is one. This play is largely comprised of a series of bit roles, but each is interesting. Even characters who show up for five minutes, speak two lines, and then disappear are quirky and compelling and will, at the very least, make you laugh.

But it’s not a rotation of stock character quirks we’ve seen before. There’s something familiar and likeable in each person we meet, but they also feel original and fully developed.

For example, in a scene that features a crowd of prisoners singing hymns, each prisoner stands out, and if you spend a moment watching each one, you’ll find them doing something entirely unique. This is the sort of detail-orientation I talk about. Every scene is compelling right to the edges of the stage.

And there are only a handful of actors, so we get to see each of them fill out several different roles. They switch effortlessly, and it’s fun to watch the same guy shuffle between nervous, effeminate gang member and confidant douchey scientist – a total nod to actor Thomas Duplessie, who played Georgie and a few other roles. I have to admit I watched him the most, effortlessly embodying his changing characters down to the last gesture.

The only actor who remained in a single role was, of course, the lead – Alex, played by Adrian Yearwood. As the only consistent character he was the only one we got to see through full development. He creeped me out, then he made me feel sorry for him, and then he made me proud.

Another detail I enjoyed was the use of colour – everything black and white, accented by strategic placement of, of course, orange. By the end of the play I was trying to analyze when orange was used, and to what effect, and did it mean anything? I wished I had been keeping track since the beginning. Maybe you can.

I’ve saved the best for last here: the choreography. Erin Brookhouse created some absolutely beautiful and horrifying masterpieces of savagery. Part dance, part pantomime, the violence that is so central to this play was transformed into something bewitching and sickening.

You have to see it for yourself.

– A Clockwork Orange is playing at Electric Theatre (299 Augusta Ave.) until December 15, 2012
– Shows run December 6-8th and 12-15th at 8pm, with an additional matinee on Sunday, December 9th at 2pm
– Ticket prices are $15 for regular admission and $12 for students
– Tickets are available by emailing, calling 416 317 8715, or visiting the box office at 299 Augusta Ave.