Ultra-violence makes Everyman’s A Clockwork Orange a real horror show

Youths carrying knives and inflicting sporadic violence, and politicians and the public clamouring for radical solutions, is nothing particularly new.

This is the vision conjured by Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange. The difference today is that most knife crime is youth-on-youth rather than aimed at the general public – often the elderly, inform or young – who have most to fear from marauding juvenile gangs in Burgess’ grim tale.

The Everyman Theatre in Liverpool is staging the work with Burgess’ original songs, proving a plangent echo to the random acts of ‘ultra violence’ inflicted by protagonist Alex and his droogs.

Director Nick Bagnall lets the songs and demotic words do the heavy work in creating a space for the story to unfold, the set a sparse antechamber of horror where Alex and co cut their way through society’s fears.

Characters and scenes appear from trapdoors as if from a hallucinatory hell, and are summarily despatched down chutes to uncertain fates: a brutal kicking, a bottle to the face, a slash to the neck.

George Caple as Alex is demonic ringleader of these troubles, spitting out orders to his juvenile hyenas in nadsat, a violent inflection of language which coats their daily dose of mayhem.

Caple mixes roving delight in early scenes with boyish uncertainty and fear in later ones when faced with the realisation that he has become the newest experiment in state mind control.

His beloved Beethoven, once the joyous accompaniment to scenes of carnage, is now a trigger for painful memory.

Alex is used by ministers and political parties for their own ends, his former droogs turn into piggish police who now beat him up, and even his parents turn him over for a lodger.

The show contains fine ensemble acting and enjoys many arresting moments. It is shot through with wicked humour and grinning monstrosities, not least a vision of Jimmy Saville in jail sporting a silver chain with the word ‘pedo’ on it.

Of particular note is Richard Bremmer emitting Beckett-like qualities in whatever roles he takes: whisky-soaked priest, inane police officer or the recalcitrant Deltoid. Cunning, agile, tramp-like, his performance is a joy to watch.

A real horror show, like.

Until 12 July.