Jeremy Raison's production of A Clockwork Orange

Jeremy Raison's production of A Clockwork Orange

Swansong show from Citizens Theatre director

As he stages his swansong production, Jeremy Raison tells Mark Fisher why A Clockwork Orange is more topical than ever

Jeremy Raison says one of his favourite films is Brazil. Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece is part of a sub-genre known as ‘retro-futurism’, as if someone in the 1940s had predicted what the 1980s would be like. For Raison, who is directing A Clockwork Orange, such a fluid view of history makes sense. Anthony Burgess’s novel was published in 1962, so its dystopian vision of a near future should have happened by now. Making the best of both worlds, Raison is drawing not only on the mods and rockers-style imagery of the original, but also the hang-ups of the 21st century.

‘It’s closer to our time,’ says the director. ‘By the 70s when Kubrick picked up on it, David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars were already dressing themselves essentially as droogs. Vivienne Westwood clearly picked up on it, punk picked up on it, so it became this kind of future-present. Like 1984 it has this timeless quality. Jason Southgate’s set could be the future or the present, the costumes are a fairly recognisable world, but the gang have their own design aesthetic. It’s like a lot of fashion now in that it is eclectic and it borrows from different areas which is like the book where Burgess mixes together this Elizabethan language with a contemporary look, like the bovver boots.’

Having resigned at the end of August along with joint-artistic director Guy Hollands, Raison is marking the end of a seven-year reign at the Citizens with a production he hopes will tune in to a renewed mood of dissent in the country. He has good reason to fear for the arts (after his resignation, he complained that the theatre’s funding was at the same level as it was ten years ago), but he is nervous more generally about the direction of the coalition government. This, he feels, is what makes A Clockwork Orange particularly timely.
‘Governments trying to control populations is an issue that seems incredibly relevant,’ he says. ‘We have this unbelievably repressive government that wants to make everybody frightened about their future and it’s causing havoc. People have a lack of optimism because they are being told there is nothing for them. Within Glasgow, people are being put out of jobs and it radically changes the landscape. A Clockwork Orange feels very relevant because Alex does blame the state. He says, “You and your people made this world we live in, so we’re going to take something back.”’

The notoriety of A Clockwork Orange is to do with Stanley Kubrick’s film, which the filmmaker withdrew from distribution in the UK for 27 years in the wake of alleged copycat behaviour and threats against his family. It would be hard for Raison to erase the memory of Malcolm McDowell as the amoral Alex and his orgy of hard-core delinquency had the book not come first. ‘If you were trying to stage the film, that would be worrying, but we’re staging the book,’ he says. ‘The story itself is very strong. Violence, criminality and how to deal with large prison populations are issues that will never go away. It has a relevance to it, which is why it seems right to be doing it at the moment.’

A Clockwork Orange, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 13 Oct–Sat 6 Nov.

A Clockwork Orange

  • 2 stars

A stage version of Anthony Burgess' horrifyingly violent fable of law and disorder, in which the ultra-violence of intellectual thug Alex and his gang of 'droogs' is punished by a state at least as cruel as the youths themselves. Recommended for ages 15+.

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