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Cast & Crew | Intro from the Author | Articles | Book | Music | Notes | Pictures | Reviews

Cast

Barbican Theatre

Character Actor
Alex Phil Daniels
Pete Francis Mark Johnson
George John Hannah
Dim Patrick Brennan

Crew

Role Person(s)
Composers Bono & The Edge
Director Ron Daniels
Author Anthony Burgess

Intro from the Author

This version of A Clockwork Orange was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1990. I am grateful to its director, Ron Daniels, for his invaluable help with the adaptation. - A. B.

    A few years ago I published a brief theatrical version of my novella A Clockwork Orange, with lyrics and suggestions as to music (Beethoven mostly). This was done not because of a great love of the book but because, for 28 years, I was receiving requests from amateur pop groups for permission to present their own versions. These were usually so abysmally bad that I was forced eventually to pre-empt other perversions with an authoritative rendering of my own. But the final textual authority, though not the musical one, rests with this present Royal Shakespeare Company production. Ron Daniels, who directs it, has helped a great deal with putting it into a dramatic shape suitable for a large theatre, and I wish to thank him now for the hard and valuable work he has poured into what was very far from an easy task.
    I think most people know where the title comes from. ‘A clockwork orange’ is a venerable Cockney expression applied to anything queer, with ‘queer’ not necessarily carrying any homosexual denotation. Nothing, in fact, could be queerer than a clockwork orange. When I worked in Malaysia as a teacher, my pupils, when asked to write an essay on a day out in the jungle, often referred to their taking a bottle of ‘rang squash’ with them. ‘Orang’ is a common word in Malay, and it means a human being. The Cockney and the Malay fused in my mind to give an image of human beings, who are juicy and sweet like oranges, being forced into the condition of mechanical objects.
    This is what happens to my young thug Alex, whose sweet and juicy criminality, which he thoroughly enjoys, is expunged by a course of conditioning in which he loses the free will which enables him to be a thug – but also, if he wishes, a decent adolescent with a strong musical talent. He has committed evil, but the real evil lies in the process which has burnt out the evil. He is forced to watch films of violence while a drug that induces nausea courses through his veins. But these films are accompanied by emotion-heightening music, and he is conditioned into feeling nausea when hearing Mozart or Beethoven as well as when contemplating violence. Music, which should be a neutral paradise, is turned into a hell.
    What looks like a celebration of violence – far worse on the stage than in the book or the film that Stanley Kubrick made (now inexplicably banned in Britain) – is really an enquiry into the nature of free will. This is a theological drama. When human beings are made incapable of performing acts of evil they are also made incapable of performing acts of goodness. For both depend on what St. Augustine called liberum arbitrium – free will. Whether we like it or not, the power of moral choice is what makes us human. For moral choice to exist, there have to be opposed objects of choice. In other words, there has to be evil. But there has to be good as well. And there has to be an area where moral choice doesn’t really apply – that neutral zone where we drink wine, make love, listen to music. But that neutral zone can all too easily become a moral zone. We spend our lives, or ought to, making moral choices.
    Ever since I published A Clockwork Orange in 1962, I have been plagued by the fact it has really been two nooks - one American, the other for the rest of the world. Thus, the British edition has twenty-one chapters while the American edition, till very recently, had only twenty. My American publisher did not like my ending: he said it was too British and too bland. This meant he saw something implausible - or perhaps merely unsaleable - in my notion that most intelligent adolescents given to senseless violence and vandalism get over it when they sniff the onset of maturity. For youth has an energy, but rarely knows what to do with it. Youth has not been taught - and is being taught less and less - to put that energy to the service of creation (write a poem, build Salisbury Cathedral out of matchsticks, learn computer engineering). In consequence, youth can use that energy only to beat up, put the boot in, slash, rape, destroy. Our card-operated telephone kiosks are a monument to the youth's worst instincts. At the end of this play you are to watch young Alex growing up, falling in love, contemplating eventual fatherhood - in other ways, becoming a man. Violence, he sees, is kid's stuff. My American publisher did not like this ending. Stanley Kubrick, which when he made his film out of the American edition, naturally did not know that it existed. That is why the film puzzled European readers of the book. You must make up your own minds as to which ending you prefer. You can always leave before the end.
    One final point. In 1990, which we wrongly think is the start of a new decade, we look forward to a bright European future. The Berlin Wall is coming down, Mikhail Gorbachev is preaching perestroika (a word which young Alex is bound to know, since a great deal of his vocabulary is Russian), the Channel Tunnel is burrowing its way to the continent. We are, politically at least, becoming optimistic. Ron Daniels and his talented actors and musicians, as well as myself, are gently suggesting that politics is not everything. That, in a way, was the whole point of the book. Young Alex and his friends speak a mixture of the two major political languages of the world – Anglo-American and Russian – and this is meant to be ironical, for their activities are totally outside the world of politics. The problems of our age relate not to economic or political organization but to what used to be called ‘the old Adam’. Original sin, if you wish. Acquisitiveness. Greed. Selfishness. Above all, aggression for its own sake. What is the purpose of terrorism? The answer is terrorism. Alex is a good, or bad, juvenile specimen of eternal man. That is why he is always calling you his brothers.
    I have no doubt that, with this new dramatic version of my little book, I shall be blamed for promoting fresh violence in the young. A man who killed his uncle blamed it on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A boy who gouged out his brother’s eye blamed it on a school edition of King Lear. Literary artists are always being treated as if they invented evil, but their true task, one of many, is to show that it existed long before they handled their first pen or word processor. If a writer doesn’t tell the truth he’d better not write. This is the truth you’re watching. Anthony Burgess

Articles

Sight and Sound Spring 1990

    The stage version, publicized as a musical and clearly a bid to repeat the RSC's money-spinning international success with Les Miserables, is called A Clockwork Orange 2004. The title deliberately evokes and invokes 2001 A Space Odyssey, and the permanent part of Richard Hudson's set resembles the inside of a red gasometer. But the music by two members of the Irish group U2 (The Edge and Bono), is so much unmemorable percussive rock, and the choreography by Arlene Phillips (creator of the Hot Gossip group) is commonplace disco-dancing. By contrast, Kubrick's movie now looks and sounds like a real musical, with its brilliant use of Beethoven, Rossini, Elgar and 'Singin` in the Rain'. The stage fights are clumsy affairs, lacking in grace and unconvincing as most theatrical violence is. The fights in the movie are both balletic and frightening. We are involved and repelled because the camera presents us with Alex's point of view, while the stylization distances us from the events.
    The casting of the supporting stage roles is designed to utilize actors and actresses from the RSC's current London productions of Hamlet (in the main Barbican Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (in the small subterranean auditorium, The Pit). The obvious casting would have been to have Mark Rylance, the RSC's Hamlet and Romeo, play Tony in a revival of West Side Story. Instead, Phil Daniels, joined the company as Alex. Daniels brings to the stage a loveable, cockney-sparrow persona he has developed on stage in Class Enemy, and in movies such as The Class of Miss MacMichael, Quadrophenia and Scum. He's an Artful Dodger, winsome, winning, sly, but not evil. He is a creation of his environment.
    McDowell brought to Kubrick's film an aristocratic, fallen angel quality. He exhibits the same kind of insolent contempt for authority he showed as the anarchic public-schoolboy in Lindsay Anderson's if..., the movie that had made his reputation three years before. McDowell commands the film, but Daniels fails to dominate the play. The stage-Alex is surrounded by crude caricatures, the screen-Alex moves among skillfully defined Jonsonian humor. Kubrick has shown an acute feeling for British types and employed several actors in a diversity of roles. His Donald McGill-style warder in A Clockwork Orange, Michael Bates, created the role of Inspector Truscott in Joe Orton's Loot, a part Leonard Rossiter (a prominent figure in 2001 and Barry Lyndon) was appearing in at the time of his death four years ago.
    In adapting his own novel, Burgess, has retained Alex's direct address to the audience, which leaves the book incompletely dramatized. And he has included scenes and incidents Kubrick dropped from his tightly plotted film. The authorship, for example, of a book called A Clockwork Orange is attributed to the writer, F. Alexander, and the title explained. Alex's second killing, the group murder of an obstreperous convict, is graphically staged, though only to point up the grim confinement of prison life. The central moral is constantly reiterated and underlined.
    The main restoration, however, is of the final chapter, which Kubrick was apparently unaware of until his script was nearly completed. 'I never gave any consideration to using it,' he later told Michel Ciment. In Burgess' coda, Alex, meets his old droog Pete, now married and settled down. The encounter encourages Alex, still only 18, to speculate on his own future. He envisages a happy suburban life, a contented wife ironing his clothes and preparing his meals in the living room, a little baby boy gurgling in the bedroom. On stage there is no ironic undertone. We are asked to accept this absolutely seriously. A deep sentimentality negates much of what has gone before. The only way Kubrick could have handled it would have been as grim comedy, comparable with the fantasies Alex has of whipping Christ like a Roman soldier in a parody version of a Hollywood biblical film.
    Nothing dates quite so rapidly as our ideas of what the future might be like. But the astonishing thing about both 2001, A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange is the power they still exert. The haircuts, the thick sideburns, the LP records, the absence of computer screens fix the movie in the early 1970's, but they do not tame it. The end of the Burgess-Daniels stage version takes the play back to the British cinema of the era in which the novel originally appeared. Room at the Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and A Kind of Loving all end in exactly that resigned way of settling for a muted life of small, compromised happiness. That Alex might become a state-employed thug, a wife-beater and child-abuser, is not the sort of notion producers of potentially money-spinning shows wish audiences to take with them out into the night.

Book

In 1990 the 1987 Play with Music scriptbook was re-released as ACO 2004 to tie-in with the play.

Front Cover
Back Cover

From the Back Cover

Twenty-five years on, A Clockwork Orange has become the here and now - a stark, powerfully reflective vision of our society as seen by one of our most apocalyptic writers.

'Whoever heard of a clockwork orange?' asks the author, who scripted this version with music for the Royal Shakespeare Company. 'The attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth capable of sweetness...laws and conditions appropriate only to a mechanical creation - against this I raise my sword pen.'

Creating mayhem and terror as they go, muttering their strange and disturbing language, Alex and the droogs smash their way into our consciousness and into the iconography of our time.

'His range is immense. His fertility seems inexhaustible. Taking output and quality together, he is our major writer' Sunday Telegraph

Music

A sampling of the unthinkable.

ACO 2004 Play
The Nadsat Song

DROOGS:
What's it going to be then, eh?
What's it going to be then, eh?
Tolchocking, drasting and kicks in the yarblockos,
Thumps on the gulliver, fists in the plott.
Gromky great shooms to the bratchified millicent,
Viddy and krovvy pour out of his rot.
Ptitsas and cheenas and starry babushkas
- A crack in the kishkas real horrorshow hot.
Give it them whether they want it or not.

What's it going to be then, eh?
Deng in our carmans so no need for crasting
And making the gollybird cough up its guts.
Tolchocks and twenty-to-one in an alleyway,
Rookers for fisting and britvas for cuts.
What's it going to be then, eh?
As one door closes another one shuts.
Govoreet horrorshow, but me no buts.

BBC Radio Play

Deltoid and Alex trading lines:
What gets into you all?
What gets into us all?
Theologial evil?
Theologial evil? Phhht
The devil stalking the street?
The devil stalking the street?
The weevil? In the flower of life?
The weevil? In the flower of life?
I repeat.
Don't Repeat.
What gets into you all?

Notes

 Pictures

Royalty Theatre Flyer - front, artwork
Royalty Theatre Flyer - flap, Phil as Alex

Royalty Theatre Flyer - back, ticket info

Reviews

    It was a cold February night in 1990 and as a fifteen year old obsessed with Quadrophenia and all things mod I was extremely excited to be able to see Phil Daniels play the lead role of Alex in the RSC production of ACO 2004. Before the show I had no knowledge of ACO at all except knowing that it was a notorious film and, judging by the pictures I had seen of the movie, looked very strange indeed! (Note: The film was banned at the time - Alex)
    The only reason I was there at the time was to see (and hopefully meet) Mr. Daniels and my memory of much of the evening is pretty misty. I went with my mom and best friend at the time and was delighted to have a front row seat and waited excitingly anticipating what I was about to see.
    It was an excellent evening and I was soon hooked by the story and the superb performances from the whole cast as well as the dazzling stage set. I do remember Phil Daniels was excellent as a cheeky and cockney Alex, brilliantly picked for the part and giving a mesmerizing performance that looked both engaging and exhausting!
    The choreography was also wonderful with some brilliantly staged ultra-violence. My one strong memory of the evening was in the scene with the catlady where Alex had to jump onto a table and kick the cats around the house....not real ones, but fluffy toys. One of them went flying through an open window in the back of the set, something I think certainly didn't happen every night, and was met with a huge applause!
    I now know a lot more about ACO and can look back and say it was a wonderful, underrated and faithful adaptation of the greatest novel ever written and complete with that much talked about final chapter. After the show I was fortunate enough to meet Phil Daniels and speak to him about his career. My mom called him over to us as I was just a shy teenager but he was very friendly and signed my program. - John B.


 I actually saw the RSC production at The Barbican. Remember that, at this time, the film still had a large element of forbidden fruit (so to speak) to it because of Kubrick's withdrawal of the film so to see a stage version was the next best thing.
    It wasn't a particularly successful adaptation but it had a kinetic energy to it provided by a mesmerizing performance by Phil Daniels and a dynamic score by The Edge. The Edge's echoing guitar similarly cut through the action to give a real sense of violence.
    Annoyingly the audience seemed to be made up of the usual spoiled, cooler-than-thou London crowd; at one point the persistent coughing got so bad that one of the actors had to come to the front of the stage and tell the audience to shut up. - Mike P

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