Theatre Group’s decision to take on such a dark, challenging play was a brave one; filled with tough scenes including both physical and sexual violence, the cast confronted these scenes with real maturity, allowing them to be harrowing but not excessive. The violent scenes were excellently choreographed, using both music and lighting to great effect. Most memorably, the fight scene between two rival gangs was carried out using strobe lighting, and set to The Prodigy’s ‘Omen’, giving it an urgent, visceral quality.
The 19-member cast were all absolutely brilliant in their roles, and, although the parts were different sizes, each cast member brought something new to the performance. A special mention must go to Tom Claxton who took on the huge mantle of playing the lead role of Alex DeLarge – he somehow managed to make the king of Ultraviolence seem human. Surrounded by his gang of ‘malenky droogs’ (Bee Lawrence, Robert Meyer, and Jason Thorn), Claxton cut a menacing, persuasive, and ultimately malevolent figure, chilling the audience throughout. In the second half, he achieved the unbelievable, and procured empathy from the audience with his heart-breaking embodiment of the mental torture of the barbaric Ludovico technique.
Becky Downing and Jess Williams’ directing was second to none, orchestrating a performance that left the audience laughing, crying, and horrified all in the same show. The mechanical milk bar girls deserve recognition for their impeccable bionic movements; they never once broke character, and provided a visually interesting background to the milk bar scenes, of which there were many. A real highlight was Joseph Callaghan’s flamboyant portrayal of Dr. Brodsky, which eerily juxtaposed his bustling, excited demeanour with the horrific Ludovico technique, used to alter Alex’s pathological love of violence through over-exposure to (literally) sickening videos of torture.
The minimalist set was centred around a pink sofa which multitasked as the setting for the milk bar, Alex’s family sitting room, and later, the laboratory for the psychiatric Ludovico technique. Each time there was a scene change, the lighting directed the audience’s attention to the appropriate part of the stage; a record shop, an outdoor area, a prison, a home, and Alex’s bedroom. The movement between scenes was slick and obviously very well rehearsed, giving the play a professional quality that was impressive for a student production.
The use of puppetry was astounding, and extremely artistically innovative; at one point, the puppeteers joined the audience, inviting us to become a part of the performance. It is a testament to the quality of the actors that the puppets felt as human as the other characters, and often provided some comic relief from such a hard-hitting play.
The outcome of what I’m sure was many, many months worth of hard work was an extremely vivacious, well-executed performance from a hideously talented cast and crew, all of whom deserved every ounce of praise they were given, both by the audience and on social media, which was brimming with laudations as soon as the performance was over.
If it were still on, I’d pay to see it again – if you missed it, you missed out.
Image courtesy of LUU Theatre Group