by Anthony Burgess

Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange has been called, “Brilliant,” “satirical,” “violent,” “political,” “shocking,” “darkly funny,” “savage,” “a modern classic,” and much more. The International award winning Stanley Kubrick film of the book is considered one of the greatest cinematic achievements in the history of film. So potent is this story of Government protecting the individual from himself for its own power, that the film was banned from Great Britain for twenty years. 

Few people are aware that Burgess himself wrote a stage version of the show, mostly to prevent anyone else from doing it, and even turned the piece into a Brechtean type musical, writing the lyrics himself to the music of Beethoven. Which theatre company in Milwaukee would undertake a production of this frightening fable about the meaning of human freedom? Off the Wall of course. 

With a cast of twenty and spectacular stage effects in their tiny jewelbox performing space, Director Dale Gutzman mounted what he considers to be the most challenging show of his career. The play swung from wild comedy to shocking violence and back again in the blink of an eye. Gutzman called the piece “Total Theatre,” in that it encompassed song, dance, intimate drama, and epic style. The director also paid homage to Kubrick’s film by incorporating some of its themes such as “ enlightenment vs. animal passion” and “symmetry vs. chaos” in the play’s staging and set decoration. 

A Clockwork Orange is the story of Alex, a thoroughly nasty young thug who talks and sings in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly illustrates his and his friends’ social pathology. During their sadistic games of rape and robbery, Alex goes too far and commits murder. The State undertakes to reform Alex, to “redeem” him! But, at what cost? As powerful as today’s headlines, the play asks, “What is our freedom and security worth? What price is too much to pay for peace of mind?” 

Some dozen or so tunes have been created from Beethoven’s music, and these songs and dances comment on the action, characters, and sometimes the audience. 

Jeremy Welter, a resident member of Off The Wall Theatre played the role of Alex, the most challenging of his career. He never left the stage in the two hour and twenty minute production, and he underwent some of the most physically demanding and challenging tasks ever required of an actor. Mary Henricksen played his downtrodden mum, and Scott Sorensen his put-upon dad. Lawrence Lukasavage played Mr. Alexander, Alex’s alter ego, whom he cripples in a violent attack on him and his wife, played by Kristin Pagenkopf. Kirk Thomsen played Dr. Brodsky, the man who attempts to “cure” Alex by rendering him helpless to any kind of aggression, and Sharon Rise played his assistant Dr. Branom. David Roper played the Minister of the Interior, out to get votes at all costs, and Bob Hirschi played Mr. Deltoid, the parole officer. Others in the cast included; Nate Press, Kedrick Parham, and Nick Haubner as Alex’s “droogs.” Tom Welcenbach as the prison Warden, and James Henderson as the Chaplain.

November 2006