Since his graduation from the British arts training school, Italia Conti, two years ago, Jonno Davies hasn't been on his best behaviour. But that's because the 23-year-old British actor has been getting paid to do so.
Having embodied a few naughty characters in his young career — the title role in a stage production of Dracula and Adrian in the upcoming feature film Chariot — he brings his brand of delicious rebellion to Singapore with A Clockwork Orange. Playing Alex Delarge in Action to the Word's production of Anthony Burgess's iconic 1962 novel, Davies dropped by our studio office for a chat before the production opens in Singapore tonight. After being banned for 30 years, the Media Development Authority has given the production the green light, rating it as M18.
Leading the all-male cast, Davies plays the cultured yet demonic Alex, a character he was only introduced to recently. Having neither read the book nor seen Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation, he was told to see the production a few years ago. Unfortunately for him then, the show was always sold out, and Davies pretty much waited at the box office every day to see if anyone cancelled their tickets.
Fast forward a few years, and the London-based actor is now topless in our Singapore studio doing promos for the show which has now toured countries such as Norway, Australia and Hong Kong. Part of the all-male cast, Davies has been at it for 18 months, memorising lines and engaging in circuit training to prepare for this physically and emotionally demanding role.
The results are evident as soon as the 1.82-metre tall lad walked into our office. Fit and chiselled, his dedication to his form is laudable — in between shots, he'd whip out his resistance bands or drop to the floor for push-ups. In our female-dominated space, Davies' presence undoubtedly shook things up. Hello, testosterone.
How did this role come about? Did you know what the director was looking for in Alex?
I self-taped one of the monologues from the play and got a recall. There were about four of us — I wouldn't say we look the same, but you could tell there was a style in which they were going for. You know, very young, boyish features and in good shape, because it's such a physical show.
Everyone's pretty much familiar with the character of Alex — so how would you describe him in your own words, seeing how intimate your relationship is with this role?
He's a psychopath who basically wants the world to be better. While his actions are what people perceive to be villainous, in his own head, it's the right thing to do and he's making the world a better place. Whether it's by making things that are ugly more beautiful or punishing things which he thinks are wrong, he does it. He sort of thinks he's being a hero.
When playing a character that's been played by other actors before them, a lot of actors don't watch the previous portrayals on purpose — yourself included. Why?
Because I kind of thought I want it to be my own. I want my interpretation to be what I perceive him to be. And don't get me wrong, I know the guys who did the film were fantastic and I'm not taking anything away from them. I wanted to have my own individual aspect.
Obviously the book assisted in influencing the portrayal of your character, but are there other nuances you picked up in films elsewhere?
Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. His face — how he grooms, how he showers — it's all about being beautiful. Even when he's doing these horrific attacks, he talks about it so deliciously — which is what we want to do in the show. When we do the big rapes, we don't show all the blood and guts because that's not how Alex sees it. When Alex sees it, he sees it as this massive artistic, beautiful kind of angelic event. Which I kind of think it's what Patrick Bateman sees when he does his crimes?
Where does the heart of such a character lie in?
Where does it lie? The music is so helpful. I make sure I listen to the soundtrack — it's so specific and done for a reason, and it was Beethoven. I also think of density when I think of Alex. Everything is big and broad. It's very exposed and he'll never shy away. So it's kind of being chest front, head front... nether regions.
Yes, cock front. It's all kind of open and he's all about cutting shapes when he's on stage.
It's about being ruthless and the epitome of being confident. I make sure that I have an instinct on stage, because Alex doesn't censor himself.
What did you learn from this character that you think can apply to your own life?
I think probably the confidence, and never being afraid to voice your opinion on something. If Alex doesn't like something, he wants to talk about it. I think that is something that can be very useful. Otherwise, your conversation becomes stale — voicing your opinion can make things interesting.
Are you a rebellious person?
I'd say I'm more cheeky than rebellious.
When was the last time you were on your worst behaviour?
I'm trying to think about what I can say without getting in trouble! It's probably on my 21st birthday. Some of my closest friends and I went to Las Vegas. I'd recently come out from a break-up as well, so I was at this point where I just wanted to go out and have fun most nights.
Despite the role being physically demanding, you enjoyed training for it and will be starting a fitness blog soon. Tell us more?
Well it's called Fonix Fitness. I just wanted to create a blog born through enjoyment. Also, my girlfriend — an actress as well — is a fantastic baker. So we're going to incorporate some of her recipes. Because so many blogs say you mustn't have this fatty food, you mustn't drink that — we want to say that you can do it all.
Watch Jonno Davies in Action to the Word's A Clockwork Orange from today to 8 November at the Esplanade Theatre. Tickets here.
Photography: Vanessa Caitlin
Sittings editor: Norman Tan
Lighting: Elinchrom, available at Cathay Photo