You’d think that a highly visual, shocking depiction of ‘ultra-violence’ would not generate quite as many huge belly laughs as Action To The Word’s production of A Clockwork Orange does. The unsubtle ‘fuck off’ to the system; to the psychoanalytic certainties so long labelling us offers a constant irony and this in turn brings with it uncomfortable humour. It is however, the use of melodramatic and poetic jargon, Jonno Davies’s twinkly eyed anti-hero, Alexander and over the top Vauxhall Super Club setting that likely provokes the most cackles.

Originally premiering at Edinburgh Fringe in 2011, before going on an international tour, director Alexandra Spencer-Jones has reinvented author Anthony Burgess’s extraordinary, graphic societal assault for the Park Theatre the year the writer would have celebrated his centenary. It is an all-male cast, headed by Davies and a strong ensemble, with the 90 minute long action mostly confined to the theatre’s bigger but still compact stage.

Most striking in A Clockwork Orange is Hannah Lee’s tight choreography. Artists such as Placebo are pounded out and the cast move with a contrasting gracefulness, but their wild, crazed and terrifying expressions are ultimately reminiscent of a feral cat. Near naked bodies writhe both on and off the floor but always with precision and focus and Davies especially struts around like a world class ballet principal.

Alexander’s obsession with Beethoven’s Symphonies play a crucial role both within the confines of the narrative and the production detail itself. The volume to which we are treated with music here is, like the story, violent and in your face but it is necessary. There’s a beautiful contradiction between what ultimately represents more than just taste for the protagonist and a soundtrack to the atrocities Alexander and his gang execute, as well as a brief glimpse at something entirely different with The Flamingos’ ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’.

Besides the many pleasing aesthetics on offer, ahem, here, Action To The Word offer an extremely good group of performers. Davies perfects controlled arrogance but demonstrates deep versatility when necessary. Damien Hasson is frightening and hilarious, particularly as the prison Chaplain and Sebastian Charles and Simon Cotton equally impress.

Spencer Jones’ production has so many strengths but there’s ambiguity in droves. The second half especially requires too many scene changes that just cannot be realistically realised by the audience in such a small space and with so little props. The violence too, is more inferred than demonstrated; an all too familiar theme in theatre lately. Perhaps this is, as the story suggests, us desensitised? Overexposure is undeniably specific to the millennial generation and the timelessness of A Clockwork Orange makes this just as much of a talking point now as when the book was published in 1962 and the film, 1971. The show is mostly strong and brings Burgess’ story to a new generation; however, the big smack in your face impact just unfortunately isn’t there.

A Clockwork Orange is playing at the Park Theatre until March 18.

Photo: Matt Martin