It’s for Real, ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ The Musical

by Accidental Bear

In my earlier days, with my “fuck you” attitude and bad punk hair to go along with it, the idea of Stanley Kubrick‘s Clockwork Orange as a musical would have made my stomach turn. But now in my ripe old age, I am intrigued. AB


Songs written by author Anthony Burgess for a musical version of his novel A Clockwork Orange are to be performed in the UK for the first time. Burgess adapted A Clockwork Orange for a stage musical in the 1980s after his book was turned into a controversial film by director Stanley Kubrick. The music will be performed next year in Manchester during a series of events to mark the novel’s 50th anniversary. The story follows a violent teenage gang leader in a lawless society. The film caused an international outcry when it was released in 1971, leading Kubrick to withdraw it from cinemas. 

‘Ownership of the story’

The musical was “a kind of revisioning of the story”, according to Dr Andrew Biswell, director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester.Burgess, who was born in Manchester, was a prolific composer as well as the author of 33 novels. He died aged 76 in 1993.”The music is really important because it establishes a tone and a mood,” Dr Biswell said. “It’s pretty close to West Side Story – that’s one of the obvious influences on it.”There’s this scene in prison, where one of the prisoners is kicked to death, which is very throwaway and jolly. That’s completely different from the corresponding episode in the film, which is very gloomy and depressing.”The reason why Burgess wanted to make his own stage adaptation, quite a long time after Kubrick made the film, was to assert his own ownership of the story.”In 1990, Burgess’s script was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company, but the production rejected his music in favour of new songs by Bono and The Edge of U2.Burgess’s songs will be performed by graduates of the Royal Northern College of Music at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.A separate musical version of the story, featuring a new score and script, will be staged featuring black actors at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, London, from September.The anniversary will also include an exhibition about the film, featuring props, photographs from deleted scenes, location photography and rejected artwork at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

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