by Anthony Burgess
After Kubrick’s film was released, Burgess wrote a Clockwork Orange stage play. In it, Dr. Branom defects from the psychiatric clinic when he grasps that the aversion therapy has destroyed Alex’s ability to enjoy music. The play also restores the novel’s original ending.For those of you unfamiliar with the stage version, it is notable as, essentially, a work of reactive re-adaptation. Dismayed by the public perception of Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of his short novel, Burgess sought to reclaim his text by translating it into his own version for the masses in the form of a play (as the chat at the Box Office reminded me, Stephen King also did much the same thing after Kubrick adapted his book The Shining, later producing a more faithful mini-series).
A Clockwork Orange is: back to Square One. Its violent, yet moralistic core centers around the philosophy of “leaving well enough alone,” with a smidgeon of “what goes around comes around.”
Alex, a cocksure and rotten gang leader who adores listening to Beethoven, leads his barbarian band of “droogs” into nightmarish scenarios. The time is set somewhere in the near future, in the tattered shreds of a formerly civilized country. Violence portrayed in “A Clockwork Orange” is several notches above what is normally demonstrated by troublesome youth in fact and fiction.
The acts of devastation committed by this gregarious gang of four are haphazardly random, and they derive abnormal pleasure from raping, killing, torturing and maiming unsuspecting victims who inadvertently cross their angry young paths. Some of the survivors of their violent jags crop back up later in the story and play powerful roles in the way the story evolves.
Clockwork Orange on Stage
In 1988, a German adaptation of Clockwork Orange at the intimate theatre of Bad Godesberg featured a musical score by the German punk rock band Die Toten Hosen which, combined with orchestral clips of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and “other dirty melodies” (so stated by the subtitle), was released on the album Ein kleines bisschen Horrorschau. The track Hier kommt Alex became one of the band’s signature songs.
Vanessa Claire Smith, Sterling Wolfe, Michael Holmes, and Ricky Coates in Brad Mays’ multi-media stage production of A Clockwork Orange, 2003, Los Angeles. (photo: Peter Zuehlke)
Vanessa Claire Smith in Brad Mays’ multi-media stage production of A Clockwork Orange, 2003, Los Angeles. (photo: Peter Zuehlke)In February 1990, another musical version was produced at the Barbican Theatre in London by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Titled ‘A Clockwork Orange:2004’, it received mostly negative reviews, with John Peter of The Sunday Times of London calling it “only an intellectual ‘Rocky Horror Show’” and John Gross of The Sunday Telegraph calling it “a clockwork lemon”. Even Burgess himself, who wrote the script based on his novel, was disappointed. According to The Evening Standard, he called the score, written by Bono and The Edge of the rock group U2, “neo-wallpaper.” Burgess had originally worked alongside the director of the production, Ron Daniels, and envisioned a musical score that was entirely classical. Unhappy with the decision to abandon that score, he heavily criticised the band’s experimental mix of hip hop, liturgical and gothic music. Lise Hand of The Irish Independent reported The Edge as saying that Burgess’ original conception was “a score written by a novelist rather than a songwriter”. Calling it “meaningless glitz”, Jane Edwardes of 20/20 Magazine said that watching this production was “like being invited to an expensive French Restaurant – and being served with a Big Mac”.
In 2001, UNI Theatre (Mississauga, Ontario) presented the Canadian premiere of the play under the direction of Terry Costa.
In 2002, Godlight Theatre Company presented the New York Premiere adaptation of A Clockwork Orange at Manhattan Theatre Source. The production went on to play at the SoHo Playhouse (2002), Ensemble Studio Theatre (2004), 59E59 Theaters (2005) and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (2005). While at Edinburgh, the production received rave reviews from the press while playing to sold-out audiences. The production was directed by Godlight’s Artistic Director, Joe Tantalo.
In 2003, Los Angeles director Brad Mays and the ARK Theatre Company  staged a multi-media adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, which was named “Pick Of The Week” by the LA Weekly and nominated for three of the 2004 LA Weekly Theater Awards: Direction, Revival Production (of a 20th-century work), and Leading Female Performance.  Vanessa Claire Smith won Best Actress for her gender-bending portrayal of Alex, the music-loving teenage sociopath. This production utilized three separate video streams outputted to seven onstage video monitors – six 19 inch and one 40 inch. In order to preserve the first-person narrative of the book, a pre-recorded video stream of Alex, “your humble narrator”, was projected onto the 40 inch monitor, thereby freeing the onstage character during passages which would have been awkward or impossible to sustain in the breaking of the fourth wall. According to the LA Weekly, “Mays’ visceral, fast-paced multimedia show brings into stark relief the Freudian struggle between the primal self and the civilized self for domination over the human spirit. The director deftly conveys the horror of violence by subjecting the audience to an onslaught of images of war, torture and hardcore porn projected on seven TV screens.”
In January 2010 a live and improvised stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange was performed by the comedy group BOOK CLUB at the I.O. West theater in Hollywood, California.
The Brazilian heavy metal group Sepultura used the plot of A Clockwork Orange for their concept album A-Lex. The name of the album is a pun on the main character’s name; in Latin, the expression a-lex means “without law”.
Hardcore punk band Lower Class Brats wrote a song called “Ultra-violence” inspired on the story.
British punk rock band The Adicts wore outfits similar to that of Alex’s, and also had a album titled Smart Alex.
Argentinian punk rock band Los Violadores wrote the song “1,2,Ultraviolento” inspired by the story.
German punk rock band Die Toten Hosen wrote an album based on A Clockwork Orange, titled Ein kleines bisschen Horrorschau or “A little bit of Horrorshow.”
French punk rock band Berurier Noir used one of Burgess’ main themes in their song “Porcherie” when they say “Beethov’ devient ultraviolence”.
The Kottonmouth Kings used A Clockwork Orange for the theme for two videos [“Stomp” and “Rampage”] off of their latest album Long Live the Kings.
American punk rock band Rancid wrote a song called “Clockwork Orange”. It was on the album B Sides and C Sides.
American hard rock artist Rob Zombie wrote a song called “Never Gonna Stop [The Red Red Kroovy]” which was based on A Clockwork Orange. In the music video, Zombie portrays Alex in various scenes from the 1971 film.
New Zealand band Shihad wrote a song called “Pacifier”, in the music video the band portrays various scenes from the film.
1.A Clockwork Orange – From A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music
2.Anthony Burgess from A Clockwork Orange: A play with music Century Hutchinson Ltd, 1987