Interview with the directors behind T24’s A Clockwork Orange


A Clockwork Orange rehearsals

Before T24’s A Clockwork Orange performs this week, Lance Hayward catches up with the directors to get the low down on the production

Q. Could you please introduce yourselves. What are you studying and what is your role?

I’m Sarah Back and I’m studying drama in my third year. I’m co-director and adaptor.

I’m Sophie Phillips, I’m co-director and I study film. I’m in my third year.

Q. For those who don’t already know, could you tell us a little bit about the play.

SP. It’s about a 15 year-old boy called Alex, whose not the nicest of people. He goes round with his group of friends who beat up people, rape people and steal from shops. Everything you could ever imagine in a horrible person — they symbolise it. He gets caught by the police, who send him for a treatment that is meant to change him into being a good person.

Q. What made you choose this play to pitch to the society?

SB. It all started over the summer. It’s my favourite book so I wanted to try my hand at adapting it for fun. I told Sophie and she said it would be fantastic to pitch to T24 and asked if she could do it with me. We did and after I finished the script at Christmas, T24 said they wanted it.

SP. We had to give a 5-minute pitch about the idea, and I ended up doing it on my own! It was very nerve-wracking but I’m very pleased we got it.

Q. Have you seen the film or any other adaptations?

SB. A few years ago I started to read the book because we’d read a page of it in school, but it took me five tries to read it because the language is so difficult to get into. So I watched the film as a kind of way in. I thought that it was interesting, but I wanted to read the book. The film made the book easier to read, but the book is, in my opinion, much better than the film. So I wanted to adapt the book and show people. The film and the book have very different endings, so I wanted to show people the ending of the book, because most people only know the film.

Q. So are you being faithful, or not?

SB. As faithful as is possible, onstage — with a couple of little film references.

SP. Similarly, I read the first chapter in A-level English and loved it. I left it, but it’s my best friend’s favourite film, so he made me watch it. I read the script and started reading the book as well. I think the adaptation of the book is much more interesting than the film, but I love the style of the film. So, we’ve taken the narrative and story of the book, but incorporated elements of the film’s style. Best of both worlds.

“We’re trying to make something new, something that’s ours.” Sophie Phillips

Q. Is it happening in a lecture theatre? Did you have to take that into consideration when writing?

SB. I don’t think so. Because the book jumps around from location to location, when I was writing I pictured it as being new sets, which means moving a block or something. That could work in any space, from DLT3 to the Marlowe.

SP. Between the two of us we have a lot of experience. T24 have 2 free space shows a term, this is my fifth production, and Sarah’s fourth, so we’ve worked a lot in DLT3. We know it’s a good space.

SB. We’re doing it a different way round for the first time as well. The room has quite a bad reputation, but we’re trying to use it in an interesting way.

Q. Are you working with a range of people?

SB. Yes. I suppose we’ve worked with new people particularly for this show. We have four or five cast members who have never done a T24 show before.

SP. We go from first to fourth years and cover all subjects, including science students. There’s a huge range.

Q. A Clockwork Orange has quite a strong place in popular culture. Do you think that will lead people to having preconceived notions before they see your take?

SP. I think that although A Clockwork Orange is well-known, I don’t think that many people have actually seen the film, or read the book. The two people who are our leads have never seen the film or read the book. They knew nothing about it coming in. But the most iconic thing that people will be expecting is the costumes, the white outfits and the eyelashes.

SB. Which we don’t have!

SP. We’ve got a few cheeky references to the film, to show that we know it exists, so that people who are film students will see the hints, and know that there are those nice little touches. We don’t want to copy anything that’s been done before. We’re trying to make something new, something that’s ours.

Q. So what would you say to potential audience members?

SP. It’s going to be different to the film, but I think that’s what makes this interesting. I love the film, but watching it again after we started production, it felt weird. I’m not sure I like the film version as much.

SB. Some of the portrayals of characters and things are just nowhere near what happens in the book, but it’s nice to see how Kubrick did it, and then how our actors did it without watching the film, and seeing the differences.

SP. The film is a lot more graphic as well, there’s loads of nudity which isn’t actually in the book. I think there’s only one mention of it, but the film takes it to the extreme to shock.

Q. Did you find it easy portraying such potentially loathsome characters?

SP. We both love Alex, but we’ve split him into two. We have the older Alex, the eighteen year-old looking back on his life, and Alex when he’s fifteen. It’s harder to like younger Alex, but from the narrator’s point of view he has such a charm. You like him but you’re not sure why. We tried to play up that sense of being friends with him, but being disgusted at what he does.

SB. It’s a sense of unease. Usually you end up liking the villain character, but I’m not quite sure you could call Alex a villain. You kind of like him for the same reasons.

“There’s one quote: ‘if a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.’ A lot of the play does centre around that.” Sophie Phillips

Q. Are you almost in the final stages now?

SP. We’ve already chosen music that we wanted for the show, but we’re incorporating it into rehearsals this week. All the acting and set and everything is pretty much there.

SB. I feel like we’re prepared. I hope so.

Q. How have you thought about staging?

SB. The set is basically just ten black cubes that we move from scene to scene to make different things. In one scene it’s a counter, in another a table and chairs. It’s very malleable.

SP. With the actors as well, all of them bar the two main actors are multi-rolling. We have thirteen people playing one hundred and two other characters. With multi-rolling, it’s going on and off stage really quickly, changing costume and the set kind of reflects that in that it’s constantly changing and adapting.

SB. It’s all forming around Alex, basically. It was very influenced by shows we’ve worked on like Don Quixote.

Q. Do you think the subject matter might put people on the fence about coming to see it?

SP. I think we’ve tried to treat it very sensitively. There is a rape scene in it, but we’ve tried to treat it respectfully so we’re not shying away from it, but we’re not doing it in a graphic way that will make people sickened by it. They will be unsettled, but it’s not meant disrespectfully and we’re not trying to offend anybody. All of our actors have done stage combat. We had workshops with a theatre company who came in. The fight scenes look great, but it’s not realistic. It’s kind of surreal.

SB. I think it’s also because of the film. To me, the film basically just wanted to show all of the horrible things that happen in the book. With our version it’s very much focussing on the characters. We do a fight scene because it’s written in the script, rather than just saying “this is the first fight scene, this is what happens to get to the next fight scene”. It’s just a necessity.

SP. Ours is based more on the ideas that the book proposes. There’s one quote: “if a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.” A lot of the play does centre around that. It was one of the first quotes that stuck in our heads. We based a lot of ideas around morality and ethics.

Q. Are you looking forward to it?

SB. Yes. I’m very very excited!

SP. Yes! I’m not sure what I’m going to do when it finishes.

A Clockwork Orange will be performed in DLT3, Darwin College Saturday 21st March: 7.30PM and Sunday 22nd March: 2.30PM and 7.30PM. Tickets are £5 and can be bought from here


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