Theatre Royal Stratford East are about to open their new version of A Clockwork Orange for the stage. Featuring a new score by Fred Carl and a reworking of Burgess’s text by Ed DuRanté, it is an ambitious production that hopes to ‘capture Burgess’s unique use of language and style [and] bring fresh resonance to this modern classic.’
Burgess himself was at best ambivalent about stage versions of his novel. In the preface to A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music (1987) he discloses ‘a certain gloom about visual adaptation of my little book, and the reader has now the right to ask why I have contrived a stage version of it. The answer is very simple: it is to stem the flow of amateur adaptations that I have heard about though never seen. It is to provide a definitive actable version which has auctorial authority.’ He grumpily concludes that ‘[this play] is my farewell to a preoccupation which has continued too long. I mean an enforced concern with a book which belongs very much to my past – after all, it is a quarter of a century old – and which I would prefer to forget. I have written other books and, I think, better ones.’
Burgess was never permitted to ‘forget’ A Clockwork Orange: until the end of his life he continued to write about it, speak about it in interviews, and complain that his other works were unjustly ignored. For him it was unfinished business, as it clearly is for writers, directors, actors and musicians who continue to draw on the challenging and controversial text that it remains. In this sense it is truly a ‘modern classic’ that is remade in new forms for successive generations of audiences. We wish Theatre Royal Stratford East well with their production.
Running from 7 September until 1 October; tickets available from www.stratfordeast.com.