"I, I, I will battle for the sun," snarls Brian Molko from the Placebo song Battle for the Sun as Alex Delarge and his droogs saunter menacingly on stage in the Esplanade Theatre. While the English alternative rock band certainly wasn't around when Anthony Burgess published his dystopian novel in 1962, its lyrics seemed to embody the spirit of Burgess's main character in A Clockwork Orange.
Placebo's hit is part of the eclectic soundtrack of the novel's stage production by British theatre company Action to the Word. Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones (Rent, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo & Juliet) and starring Jonno Davies (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Dracula) as the devil-may-care lead, the production arrives in Singapore after a three decade-ban on the 1971 film from Stanley Kubrick.
While Beethoven's Symphony 9 is undoubtedly the classical piece you'd associate with A Clockwork Orange, contemporary additions such as Placebo's Battle For the Sun and The Chemical Brothers' Galvanize add to the electric sensuality of the production. While a live action staging of such a controversial, violent text might seem too daunting to some, the intimacy between the characters and the audience is a tense and torrid affair that will leave you wanting more.
Soundtrack aside, the smarts of this staging lie in the orchestration of the notorious characters the world has come to know. As soon as you're introduced to Davies' embodiment of the "original sin prowling town", Alex, you're immediately smitten. Yes, he has the brawns to boot, but what is electrifying about his performance is how deliberately sinister the actor is in every move. This is one man who acts even to his eyelashes — lush and laced with 'guyliner' — fluttering them as a means of intimidation to his opponent. Davies takes a lot of things in his stride — apart from getting spat in the face, he held his own and managed to project his voice when his mic when into disarray in a scene.
The ensemble cast of droogs, nurses, doctors and policemen were carried out by the all-male cast, who portrayed the female characters as honestly as they possibly could, without turning them into caricatures. The sexual tension that might have been evident in a mixed cast morphed into something more — a graceful struggle for power.
This grace is seen throughout the two hour-long perfomance, which saw the men leaping about like ballerinas on steroids, throwing punches, kicks and more in fluid aggression. Even the rape scenes (yes, those weren't cut out — thank you MDA), were orchestrated in grace. Those who expected gore and blood might be disappointed, though, for the only liquid present on stage was milk — copious amounts of it.
Ultimately, Action to the Word's A Clockwork Orange proves time and again that Burgess's novel is more than a story that romanticizes violence — it's one of redemption, and finding your place in this great, big world.
Action to the Word's A Clockwork Orange ends tonight. Tickets at Sistic.