A cautionary tale – and dark social satire

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TO NDR clockwork1 Val Adamson STREETWISE: Appearing in the Durban University of Technologys staging of A Clockwork Orange are, from left, Kagisho Tsimakwane as Pete, Lungani Mabaso as Georgie, Sipho Zakwe as Alex and Gabriel Miya as Dim.

THE Durban University of Technology (DUT) Drama and Production Studies Department is to present the stage adaptation of Sir Anthony Burgess’ iconic dystopian novella, A Clockwork Orange.

Described in a press release as a cautionary tale and dark social satire about extreme youth violence, we caught up with director Marcia Peschke to find out more.

“What attracted me to the play was the idea of choice and free will and how it sort of interrogates the socialisation of violence and aggression, particularly with frustrated youth. I connected to that because I found that at this point in South Africa we do have youth who are sort of looking to the future, thinking about the opportunities they have, or that they are unsure of how to express themselves. And I felt there was a connection in that way and it spoke to me for those reasons,” she explained.

The press release said the play was set in a dystopian future, where young teenage gangs loot, steal and speak in a Russian-English infused slang called Nadsat. The story looks at hooliganism and social identity in an authoritarian state.

“I’ve decided to stick to the original version as it was written because I believe that regardless of where it’s set, it has themes South Africans can still connect to,” said Peschke.

Commenting on the different mediums she’s used to present the piece on stage, Peschke said some physical theatre, gritty imagery to reflect aspects of male rituals in which assertive and hostile behaviour is encouraged, and design inspired by the work of British street artist, Banksy, can be expected.

The music, which is central to heightening the violence-fuelled misadventures of Alex, includes Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

“I was interested in using physical theatre because I thought when people hear about the play they might think about the film, and film is such a different medium because it’s so visual. And I also read about the author’s feelings towards the film and although he respected it as an artistic product, he did express certain concerns about the amount of violence that was shown in the film.

“I wanted to respect that vision and so I was interested in using some physical theatre because you use movement and gestures to sometimes express something and I thought I’ve got to work with the idea of the violence in a way that it doesn’t switch the audience off. I thought if we’re conditioned to sort of get used to the idea of violence, I have to find mechanisms that would work to engage the audience in those scenes without them being turned off. At the same time I did want to get in touch with the visual element. I basically wanted to reflect the ruin and decay of the youth so that will be reflected in the design. I wanted to give the feeling of buildings or towns that have been abandoned… I thought that would kind of tie in with what’s happening with our youth at the moment,” she explained.

Peschke, who’s taken on the responsibility of design, said she and her partner, Wesley Thomas Hall, are inspired by Banksy’s art because his work is loaded with social commentary.

“It’s interesting that you get that through a medium (street art/graffiti art) which is not looked upon very kindly by certain institutions. I thought it could reflect the rebelliousness of the characters but at the same time, using the medium of graffiti art, provide interesting social commentary as well.”

Peschke said her cast of students from the drama school ranged from first to third-years.

“I enjoy working in that way because I think it makes the dynamic between the actors interesting. For me it’s not simply about the end product, but the process, that they take something from it and learn as well. The way in which I’ve directed the piece is so that the actors also engage in how the piece turns out, so I value their input. I expect as well that I am not performing as a lecturer in rehearsals, but that I am facilitating, so they feel they have a purpose in what they’re doing and bring their ideas to the table so we create together. I simply guide them so they are in line with the vision of the play and there’s unity in the product.”

Peschke said although the play looked at some very serious themes, there were moments of comedy, used so that the audience would not be switched off, or find the messages too much to take in.

• A Clockwork Orange runs Friday to May 30 at the Indian Cane Growers Hall on the ML Sultan Campus, DUT. Starts 7pm. Tickets: R35. Bookings: 031 373 2194 or 031 373 2532. Age restriction of 16.


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