Antonia Shaw chats to Alex Wright and Alex Forsyth about Belt Up’s most exciting project so far
Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange will soon hit York Theatre Royal. Another provocative play courtesy of campus’s very own award-winning theatre company, Belt Up (Nothing to See/Hear), Clockwork promises to push their theatrical techniques to the limit. The award winning novel later adapted to play by Burgess himself, is a dark and sadistic study on free will and psychological behaviourism.
Burgess’s nightmare vision of youth culture offers a gripping insight into the life of a disturbed young man, depicting acts of rape, ‘ultra-violence’, torture, murder and revenge. Belt Up is renowned for being shocking and “aggressively participatory” (The Times), so Clockwork seems a masterful choice by Alex Wright, director and producer. Wright stresses, “It is shocking, but it has a lot more to it. Clockwork is an iconic text, which I personally greatly admire.”
The risqué nature of the text assumes a level of discomfort for the actors. However, Alex Forsyth who plays the protagonist Alex, states, stylised rape scenes aside, “I don’t feel uncomfortable, I’m playing a role. I’m not actually raping someone. I’ve been more uncomfortable in the past, like when I’ve been in bad plays.”
Under Wright’s direction, the cast of Clockwork are presenting their most stylistically complex performances yet. Influenced by Berkovian techniques, the cast perform on a minimal stage, creating props and sets bodily. Wright explains, “In this production there is no frame of reference. Clockwork is not really to be connected with”. He demands extreme physicality from his troupe. Forsyth jokes, “The first thing Alex [Wright] does, is he goes out and sources acrobats. He finds the ones most capable for physical theatre. Then he says, fuck that”. Wright, though, argues that “people can generally do a lot more than they think. In real life there is no point when you would think, ‘I’m going to run and jump 10 feet and throw myself back and forward roll off’, as no one does that, but everyone is perfectly capable of doing it.”
Rehearsing such scenes not only results in bumps, bruises and aching muscles. One cast member, Anna Rohde, has already pulled out because of injury. Rehearsals are problematic in one sense because of the lack of an audience – a challenging obstacle when a performance revolves and reacts around it.
“People know that this is A Clockwork Orange and know that it’s participatory [and they] will be worried. No one is going to get raped. No one is going to get murdered,” Forsyth reassures me. Wright adds, “Obviously you are in a theatre, you are in a safe space. You can feel as scared and unsafe as you like but everything is controlled. The audience is really the only variable, and people can say no. But Clockwork isn’t a piece of theatre you should feel comfortable watching.”
Belt Up’s productions never fail to trigger powerful reactions, positive or negative. A Clockwork Orange is showing at York Theatre Royal 19th-21st June. The company forebodingly advises the audience to leave big bags at home, to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.