January 2018

17 January 2018

Gender-bending brutality: women cast in dominant male roles in new version of A Clockwork Orange

Key male characters in a contemporary interpretation of the classic novel A Clockwork Orange – infamous for scenes of sadistic assault and rape – are to be played by females. 

The play, which opens this week at the Exeter Northcott Theatre, is a modern retelling of the Anthony Burgess’ original script which aims to address the issue of “power itself”.

It includes the creation of “new scenes and entire physical sequences to add depth to Burgess’s already electric story.”

In the 1962 book, the protagonist Alex conducts a horrific crime spree with his ‘droogs’, which includes mass violence and rape, before Alex undergoes a controversial psychological conditioning technique to correct his ways.

A 1971 screen adaptation by Stanley Kubrick became notorious when death threats and controversy over copycat violence prompted the director to withdraw the film from cinemas.

Burgess, who wrote the novel and the script, examines issues still relevant to today’s youth, including juvenile delinquency and control by adults.

These will be explored in the University of Exeter Theatre Company’s production.  The 2018 play will also examine the nature of power with women student actors playing key male roles, including some of Alex’s followers, and the doctor who performs the correctional treatment.

Director Florrie Taylor and Assistant Director Alex Benjamin say they made the changes to assess power as a whole, rather than “the very specifically gendered kind of power that’s presented in Burgess’ text”.

Alex Benjamin, Assistant Director, said: “Anthony Burgess’ attitude towards women is fairly
1960s. Women don’t have a lot to do in the story. So we’ve swapped the gender of several characters to create some great female parts, and adapted the sexual assaults to make it horrible in a slightly more equal-opportunities way.”

“The policy is that we play them as women rather than asking the actors to play men. Women being victimised is an important part of the story, and it’d be foolish to shy away from this fact. But, by allowing them to play the victimisers too, it becomes more of a two-way street that allows us to examine power itself’” says Benjamin.

Florrie Taylor, a master’s student studying MA Theatre Practice at Exeter University, said she wanted to create “a never before seen version”.

She added:  “We have been able create new scenes and entire physical sequences, to add depth to Burgess’s already electric story. We’ve been able to add more complexity to Alex’s journey than is offered by the script alone”

Among the female actors in traditionally male roles are May Macleod as Georgie, Laura Jackson as Dr Brodsky and Lily Roberts as Governor.

Macleod, playing the principal role of Georgie, said: “In a play that can celebrate male aggression, I’ve grasped that Georgie can  be equally menacing whilst embracing her transcribed gender.”

Student actors Anna Blackburn and Antonia Whillians, push the boundaries of Burgess’ initial text as members of the gang, engaging in vicious acts alongside men.

“It has been challenging to explore a such an intense and different physicality and characterisation…encompassing the agility, playfulness and violence which are important aspects of the droog characters”, says Whillians.

The delinquents in the performance speak in a fractured slang called Nadsat, composed of Slavic languages, English, and Cockney rhyming slang.

The performance includes songs from the original Burgess score, but musical directors Oliver Edward and Billy Brooks have updated the soundtrack, using contemporary tracks which are more relevant to a 2018 audience.

Hannah Simmonds, Movement Director, who choreographed many of the controversial scenes, said: “It’s an imitation dance. It’s static, violent movements that come across as aggressive, but in a rhythmic way. It pairs really well with the music, and the moves were made to the music, which is new for the show itself”

“We’re very excited to have such an exciting piece of theatre coming to Northcott, that approaches a classic text from a new angle” adds Jacob Blackburn, on the Exeter Northcott’s Board of Trustees.

A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music at the Exeter Northcott Theatre, opens on Wednesday, January 17th and runs through to Saturday 20th.

Tickets cost £15 and are available from the Northcott Theatre’s website, or the Northcott Theatre’s box office.


10 January 2018

Northcott Young Company – explore your creativity at Saturday youth theatre

This is the chance to be part of a brand new youth theatre in Exeter.

Here at the Northcott we believe theatre gives young people a stage to reach their personal and creative potential.

Some of our youngsters have recently appeared in the Christmas pantomime alongside veterans of stage and screen.

Our most famous student, Alex Sharp, went on to perform on Broadway and win a prestigious Tony theatre award.

We already run classes during the Easter and summer holidays but now we want to provide a more regular opportunity for around 40 talented young people to make theatre together.

You will have the opportunity to work with like-minded, creative young people to make thought provoking, challenging drama.

Previous experience of acting is not required but the desire and commitment to drama is compulsory.

Where? Roborough Studios, University of Exeter Streatham Campus.

When? Saturdays from April 21st 2018:

11am – 1pm for young people aged between 9 and 12 on April 21st 2018

1.30 – 3.30pm for young people aged between 13 and 16 on April 21st 2018

Cost? £100 for a term of 10 two hour sessions.

The term will culminate in a sharing of work for friends and family.

Young Company members will have opportunities to work with Northcott staff as well as perform on the stage.

The new sessions will be delivered by Lizzie Hedden, head of drama at Dawlish Community College.

Lizzie has a wealth of experience teaching drama and directing creative projects with a range of young people.

She is also part of our team regularly auditioning young people for Northcott produced work.

To find out more, and to register for a place, please contact Lizzie at L.Hedden@exeter.ac.uk or Lisa Hudson (Education and Outreach Officer) at education@exeternorthcott.co.uk

Click here to download a flyer






08 January 2018

Producer placement opportunity

Exeter Northcott Theatre is one of four theatres selected to host a £20,000 a year regional placement for a producer, it has been announced.

The 12-month role is designed to provide an entrepreneurial producer with hands-on experience and comes as a result of the theatre’s increasing programme of produced work.

Since 2015, under the artistic direction of Paul Jepson, the Northcott has steadily been increasing its producing arm.

Outdoor Shakespeare, the Railway Children, Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, and a return to home-grown pantomime with Dick Whittington are just some of the highlights with many more under way in 2018/19.

Beyond My Control, an exploration of epilepsy and the brain, developed in collaboration with Exeter University, goes on national tour this month.

Paul Jepson Artistic & Executive Director, Exeter Northcott Theatre, said he was delighted to have been selected.

“We have a busy schedule of produced work in the next twelve months including Don Carlos with Tom Burke,” he added.

“There is a new work in the pipeline by our Associate Company Le Navet Bete followed by our next traditional panto Jack and the Beanstalk and the opening of Associate Company Metta’s Willows in Spring 2019. 

“There is lots to get involved with, plenty of opportunities for commercial outcomes.  They’ll be busy!”

Stage One has announced four year-long placements in regional subsidised theatres and/or organisations across the UK.

Curve Theatre Leicester, Northern Stage, Exeter Northcott Theatre and Dundee Repertory Theatre have been announced as the hosts for the Stage One’s Regional Placements in 2018.

The registered charity normally creates three positions but the scheme has been extended due to exceptional demand.

Some 42 producers have been placed since 2010.

The organisation expects the outstanding graduates to develop their knowledge through hands-on experience and increase their commercial contacts.

The subsidised houses chosen are encouraged to be more ambitious in their plans to exploit more of their work.

Applications close on Friday Feb 2 – click here for details.

Exeter Northcott Theatre
The theatre opened in 1967 and has a rich history of developing new writing and nurturing artists at the beginning of their careers.

An array of new writing has been premiered at the theatre over the decades; from the first public performances of Edward Bond’s Bingo in 1973 through Howard Barker’s BLOK/EKO in 2011 to Dawn King’s Ciphers in 2013, Exeter audiences have enjoyed the opportunity to be in at the beginning of exciting new works and careers.

They offer a range of high quality touring drama from new and established companies covering the entire spectrum of theatre by offering new writing, classic plays, mask theatre and devised/experimental work. In recent years the theatre has also developed a strong, enthusiastic dance programme and made a return to producing its own work.

Recent productions include: The Comedy of Errors (outdoor Shakespeare South West Tour July 2017); The Railway Children (Exeter Northcott and Nick Brooke Ltd co-production (National Tour); Dracula: The Bloody Truth (Le Navet Bete in association with Exeter Northcott); J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan; French Without Tears (Exeter Northcott, English Touring Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre co-production); This Is My Body (Exeter Northcott and Ten Ten Productions – Anti Slavery Day Media Award Winner 2015); Harold Pinter’s Betrayal; A Christmas Carol (Exeter Northcott and Creative Cow co-production).

To find out more, please visit www.stageone.uk.com