SOPHIE CUNDALL interviews the director and producer of the upcoming production of A Clockwork Orange at the Bloomsbury Theatre.
Since March last year, Srishti Chakraborty (Director) and Tanya Dudnikova (Producer) and their production team have been working on Drama society’s collaborative second term show with the help of film society: A Clockwork Orange. I sat down with the pair to have a chat about the project, one of drama society’s most modern and radical choices to date.
Why A Clockwork Orange?
[S] I took the Utopias and Dystopias module in second year, and was initially keen to bid A Brave New World, but the play written on it is…bad. Instead, I chose Clockwork Orange which I’ve studied a lot, and we took the play that was written by Antony Burgess in response to Kubrick’s film which he didn’t like. We’ve actually rewritten a lot of the script! Basically, we really wanted to do something dystopian.
What has been your experience turning something that’s originally a novel and then a film into something for the stage?
[S] The film has become much more famous and well-known than the book, especially for the aesthetics, so we were worried people would see the play as just the film on stage. People tend to read the book after having seen the film. Also, Kubrick changed the ending, and this is what inspired Burgess to write the play. There’s a dig at Kubrick in the original play script- at the end a man comes on dressed as Stanley Kubrick playing Singing in the Rain on the trumpet, and gets kicked off. We’ve taken that out! Anyway, some of the more visual elements wouldn’t work quite as well on the stage, such as the iconic makeup- it’s really made for closeups. So we’ve tried to incorporate some of the film and also subvert people’s expectations.
What has it been like working with a novel that is essentially in a different language?
[T] For me I understand it because I speak Russian and it’s a combination of Russian and English slang, we also have a lot of Russian speaking cast members, so we’re lucky with that.
[S] Yeah it’s hard to direct the actors sometimes because they understand Russian better than me!
But the overall aim of the language is to make it harder to understand, it is supposed to challenge the audience.
[T] Even if you’re Russian it’s hard to understand! Especially combined with the cockney slang too.
Hopefully seeing the show will also inspire people to read the book, and show people it’s not so hard to understand the language.
What has been different about this show compared to others you’ve produced/ directed at UCL?
[T] This has definitely been the biggest show we’ve produced: we were both assistant directors on Electra, but it’s the first time we’ve been in charge.
[T] Even compared to film soc short films, with crews of 20 people or so, this is big. It’s a beast of a project!
[S] It’s also been a massive timeline; I’ve been working on this since March last year, when I first wrote the bid, and Tanya’s been involved since May. It’s the first thing you think about it in the morning, it’s just a habit thinking about it!
For drama society, it’s the most well-known text we’ve done which isn’t Shakespeare. Normally, the shows we do are much older, like Electra. We’ve taken a similar approach to Revolt, doing something newer and more radical, to get more of a reaction. The show is definitely one of the most creatively flexible shows, as the script is very bare-bones, and the set and costume is easy to play with.
Talk to me a bit about your artistic/ theatrical vision and aims for the show?
[S] The story is fundamentally dark and uncomfortable, violent; we keep saying in rehearsal it’ll be a success if, after the curtain drops at the end of the show, there’s silence for a second before the clapping. We also wanted to emulate the learning curve in the book, the reader goes from not understanding to understanding, and we wanted to show that journey. We’ve tried to incorporate that into the set design. We also want the audience to have empathy for Alex.
What are the challenges/ exciting elements of producing/ directing such a well-known text?
[S] With names like Burgess and Kubrick attached to it, and the recent Kubrick exhibition, it comes with a lot of expectations, so a lot of pressure! It’s also exciting because it’s allowed us to do the collaboration with film soc.
[T] This is especially exciting for me!
[S] People who know the book have mostly studied it, and often people also hate Alex, so we’re trying to fulfil their expectations, but also challenge them to see it in a different light.
How do you think the show is relevant/ will be relatable for audiences today?
[S] A play about dystopian violence is always relevant. It also features knife crime which is in the news a lot in London, along with the idea of gangs of young men. For me, the overall arc and most important message is about criminal and carceral reform.
Do you have a favourite line/ bit section?
[T] The scene in the extended trailer is probably my favourite bit.
[S] I have a favourite quote: ‘The law has a long memory and a long arm and its the arm of the law now that doles out a bit of summary’, and then the character gets punched!
Why should people come and see the show?
[S] It’s a good show: there’s cool fighting on stage, and it will really make you think. Come to see a story you’ve seen before in a way you haven’t yet.
[T] It’s also funny, as well as a poignant reflection on reality.
[S] In your seat you’ll be uncomfortable, but you won’t want to stop watching.
Feature image courtesy of Hal Pilkington, Louis Stall and Roy Tse.