(Navigates the Travel Ban)
OSO Arts Centre, London, December 2021
Director & Writer - Jonny Danciger
Set Design - Emma Turner
Musical Director - Math Roberts
Once the first joke is told about Captain Hook’s lost appendage, Smee hands – sorry, passes – a clipboard to one lucky mum so she can count the manual puns. She should have been given a bingo card to mark each panto tradition, though, so capably does this Peter Pan fulfil the audience’s expectations. [...]
Even when it’s not actually musical, Jonny Danciger’s script sings, ringing with alliteration, rhyme and quickfire verbal slapstick, which must help the cast keep the pace. The fairy – sorry, fairly – topical conceit is that travel back to Neverland is forbidden, because the Pixie Parliament has placed the notional nation on its Red List. As a result, Tink – or Twink, as s/he styles her/himself – is forced to transport Peter and Wendy to the Netherlands instead: ‘Second Eurostar on the right, delayed until morning!’ [...]
To get the plot proper under way, Wendy lures Ellie Cooper’s chirpy Peter (who couldn’t help reminding me of Jodie Whittaker’s upbeat Doctor Who) to her room by capturing his shadow. There then follows a lovely bit of business where Cooper chases a figure clad in a black body stocking around the stage, before Wendy eventually manages to stitch it to the boy’s feet. It’s an inspired bit of staging.
Indeed, the production is thrifty and inventive throughout. Tink’s magic scroll is a rococo bit of surtitling that offers not only lyrics but also 404 error messages in their thwarted bid to get back to Neverland. When they do (spoilers) actually make it home, the vista flies in on a curtain, adeptly painted like the flats by Emma Turner.
Matthew Grierson, Mark Aspen Reviews
A Clockwork Orange
OSO Arts Centre, London, Keble O'Reilly, Oxford
Company - Barricade Arts
Director - Jonny Danciger
Lighting - Kat Padel/Chris Burr
Producer - John Paul
Alexander DeLarge is one of literature’s most challenging protagonists. His actions are blatantly obscene and ‘ultra-violent’, yet the story requires us not only to sympathise with him, but to actively feel the thrill of his hedonistic abandon. In the novel, Burgess tackles this through a process of abstraction, using the fictional language ‘Nadsat’ as a blurred lens between the reality of the acts of violence and the way that they are perceived.
Adapting this narrative to stage thus presents a conundrum - how do you physically present these acts of violence in front of an audience whilst striking the crucial balance between excitement and abhorrence?
In this production, my answer was to create a stark contrast in physical stylisation between the acts. This was intended to initially deceive the audience into becoming complicit in Alex’s enjoyment of violence, only to then horrify them at their own willing participation through the stark realism of Alex turning from perpetrator to victim.
During Act I, in which Alex participates in violence with complete freedom and exuberance, violent sequences were presented using exaggerated choreography, drawing from balletic techniques, giving the scenes a lightness of touch. The ‘Billy-Boy’ fight scene, in which two gangs clash, was first choreographed in rehearsals as a series of contemporary ballet duets. Each move was then adapted to suggest a moment of violence - a punch, a kick a duck - resulting in a sequence that was both graceful and vulgar in equal measure. This surreal presentation, heightened by a score of symphonic Beethoven, encouraged the audience to participate in Alex’s enjoyment.
In contrast, the ‘Ludovico Technique’ sequence at the start of Act II - in which Alex is made to watch films of torture as part of a Pavlovian conditioning experiment - used sensory techniques to shock the audience with a sudden psychological realism. Rather than presenting these films visually, the audience were bombarded by a powerful strobe light from the screen, disabling their vision entirely. The films, as they were being described by Dr Brodsky, could be heard in vivid detail through the sound design. This forced the audience to construct the scenes in their own heads, in turn building a far more horrifying image than we could possibly have constructed visually on stage.
**** - A brave and worthwhile production of a classic story, given new life by this youthful and energetic team.
So iconic and unforgettable is the conditioning scene in the film that trying to replicate it on stage would be a disaster. Thankfully this reimagining for the stage grants it a new, and very unsettling, life. Rather than using visual effects, instead an oral assault on the mind portrays the horrors that the retrained Alex has to endure to turn him against his violent ways.
Whilst this is a student production, to call it so risks belittling the efforts that have clearly gone into putting this play together. An intense few weeks of rehearsals, including apparently seven hours choreographing the gang fight scene, shows the dedication that has gone into this. The horrors that made the film remarkable remain here.
- Rob Warren, Everything Theatre
Jonny Danciger’s direction offers an impressive recreation of the film’s opening scene. From thereon in, matters escalate into violence. Early scenes demonstrate a striking balletic finesse soundtracked by the emotive symphonies of Beethoven.
This is a nightmarish trip that will get the brain ticking and the senses tingling. - ****
- Greg Wetherall, LondonTheatre1
A Clockwork Orange is a challenging piece to adapt to stage, but it is tackled in an innovative way in this bold and captivating piece. The physicality is impressive and convincing, the rival gangs’ fight especially mesmerising to watch.
Part of the brilliance of this play is the suggestion of violence, the psychological probing used to make the audience imagine for themselves what is happening. This is evoked especially creatively during Alex’s rehabilitation treatment. As he watches scenes of ‘ultra-violence’ on a screen and is made to feel nauseated, the audience is subjected to incessant and painful strobe lighting. Brodsky, the doctor, provides a commentary to violent scenes that Alex would be watching, making us conquer up own our individual disturbing video. It is an excellent design, enabling the audience to become thoroughly engaged in the story. As the plot becomes twisted and upsetting, we are more fully drawn into to the heart of the play.
Clearly a lot of thought and care has gone into this production, and it is a refreshing and thought-provoking piece. Themes of freewill and identity are touched on, but thanks to Cameron Spain’s performance as a more light-hearted Chaplain, we are not bombarded with moralistic sermons. The play’s power comes much more from its interesting dramatic depiction of such a disturbing tale. The innovative and intense experience of the play itself is worth buying a ticket for.
- Megan Husain, The Oxford Student
It is always a challenge to adapt a novel’s narrative to the stage. Even more so, when the novel is a dystopia like A Clockwork Orange. And yet, last night’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel at the Keble O’Reilly theatre transcended these issues, placing its focus on the individual characters through a minimalist use of props, and exposed a most interesting side of the author’s narrative, namely the enhanced characterisation of the parts and the interactions between them.
On the whole, this student playact can only be deemed mesmerising. Perhaps due to the skilful employment of theatrical effects and lights. Perhaps it was the inspired casting of a lady as one of Alex’s violent and vicious ‘droogs’ (none of which are female in the original text), which gave the play a nice twist and a touch of violent femininity, much needed in our time of sexual equality. Or perhaps it was the general competence and preparation of the cast, especially in the acrobatic stunts, necessary for the narration of a tale of violence and vice. One just finds it difficult to decide what made this play so amusing and enjoyable.
- Matt Roberts, The Cherwell
Michael Pilch Studio, February 2016
Company - Barricade Arts
Director - Jonny Danciger
Lighting - Mark Danciger
Producer - John Paul
Philip Ridley's Mercury Fur is, in my opinion, simultaneously the most disturbing and most beautiful play written this century. At its core it poses two crucial questions: how far would you stretch morality to protect the people you love, and to what extremes do we need to clamber to truly feel alive in an increasingly desensitised world?
In our production, we aimed to create an oppressive experience for the audience from the first point of contact. A 'bouncer' made unsettling comments on the door, rows were crammed deliberately tight, and particle effects choked the audience with the stench of decaying biological matter. This hostile environment wasn't solely intended to intensify the play's dark subject matter. Rather, it served to make the moments of love and true human connection all the more beautiful in their resistance, and all the more heartbreaking when they are torn apart.
Above all else, the rehearsal process was intensely psychological. Drawing from both Stanislavski and Artaud, every relationship and motivation was thoroughly interrogated before being directed towards the extremities of raw emotional instinct.
It’s sometimes all too easy, considering the culture of violence we live in, to watch films and tv programs depicting murder or rape, and feel unmoved, or at least, blank. Jonny Danciger’s production of Mercury Fur however, will not leave you complacent. It’s utterly compelling.
It’s wonderful to see that clearly brilliant actresses were given the opportunity to make previously ‘male’ parts theirs. It might sound patronizing, but so often it seems that directors take the easy route and simply cast according to gender binary. Danciger clearly revisualised parts to make them about the person, rather than the assigned gender, and evidently to an excellent end.
This production is a shockingly good piece of drama. Clearly, the play is incredibly graphic and represents a number of taboo activities, which some audience members might struggle with, but all in all, this is a superbly directed piece with a great ensemble cast. It certainly made me think.
- Annie Hayter, The Oxford Student