Provocative all-male production gets approval from MDA

The play with an all-male cast has been having sell-out runs in Britain since its debut. -- PHOTO: ABA PRODUCTIONS
The play with an all-male cast has been having sell-out runs in Britain since its debut. -- PHOTO: ABA PRODUCTIONS

The provocative all-male British production will run here with an M18 rating

It has been called a "testosterone- fuelled adaptation" of a literary masterpiece.

A provocative all-male British production of A Clockwork Orange, which premiered at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has been approved by the Media Development Authority (MDA) with some cuts and an M18 rating.

The show will run at the Esplanade Theatre from Nov 4 to 8.

It is adapted from British novelist, critic and composer Anthony Burgess' iconic 1962 novella, which spawned a Stanley Kubrick film in 1971 that was banned for nearly 30 years internationally after Kubrick himself decided to withdraw the film from screens. The late American director made the decision following claims of copycat violence.

The self-imposed ban was eventually lifted by distributors Warner Brothers. It was shown uncut at a film festival in Singapore when the ban was lifted in 2011 and was rated R21.

At the centre of the novella, film and now the play, is a British gangster living in a futuristic dystopia who undergoes psychological treatment which conditions him to feel nausea in response to violence and sex. A Clockwork Orange takes on the classic theme of good versus evil and the meaning of human freedom.

The all-male cast of the play is led by a female director, Alexandra Spencer- Jones, and it has been having sell-out runs in Britain since its debut.

The 31-year-old director says in an e-mail reply to Life! that they agreed to the cuts because they were "clear".

She says the parts that came under scrutiny by the MDA were "some of the more homo-erotic moments and those that concern some of the novel's controversial descriptions of Christianity".

She stresses, however, that "the cuts do not affect the impact or the moral statement that the play makes overall. Only two small moments needed to be addressed - you will get the full pelt of the drama when you watch it".

The central character of the play is Alex. It takes the audience into the nastiness of Manchester's underworld, exploring themes of intense violence and sexuality as the story of Alex and his Droogs gang unfolds against the backdrop of adolescence.

Asked how faithful the play is to the book, Spencer-Jones says: "Everything comes directly from the book. The only difference is that we have only male actors so, sometimes, they play female roles, such as that of Alex's mum."

Controversy seems to be nothing new for A Clockwork Orange, which has long divided readers and audiences with its dark and disturbing portrayal of a dystopian Britain. In fact, in the first edition of the book, the controversial last chapter was not published.

Two versions of the book will soon be available. One concludes with Alex growing up and turning away from violence, while the second, much darker version leaves out that final chapter. Kubrick's film was based on the second version.

Spencer-Jones says her own introduction to A Clockwork Orange is actually a "funny story".

She recalls: "I had a very brilliant and subversive English teacher when I was 15. We were studying The Catcher In The Rye (1951) and he told me that one should not study Salinger having not studied Burgess.

"He was, however, concerned that some of our parents might not approve of the controversial material he was dishing out. He told me to hide the book under my pillow and read it on the quiet... which I did and I loved it."

That love is what led her to revisit the material many years later.

The play has been described by The Independent as "charismatic, muscular and infinitely watchable", while The Telegraph hailed it for its "machismo and muscle-bound charisma".

The director assures theatregoers in Singapore that the cuts do not impact the play and its "essence" remains the same.

"We've kept the production as it was in the UK and internationally."

deepikas@sph.com.sg