If you watched Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, chances are you found the violent scenes somewhat disturbing. You also probably cringed at some others, such as the Ludovico Technique Scene, in which the protagonist, Alex (Malcolm McDowell), is subjected to an aversion therapy session with his eyes kept open with antique lid locks used in delicate surgeries.

Maltese author and playwright Wayne Flask, however, does not recall being perturbed or even impressed by the 1972 picture.

“I watched the movie long ago but wasn’t particularly impressed by it. It turns out Anthony Burgess himself felt pretty much the same about Kubrick’s adaptation for cinema,” he said.

A Clockwork Orange is Burgess’s most famous novel and it has had an extensive impact on literary, musical and visual culture. The story fouses on the conflict between the individual and the State, the punishment of young criminals and the possibility or otherwise of redemption.

After the film was released, Burgess received many requests for stage adaptations but most scripts fell below his expectations. So he decided to give an “authoritative rendering” of his own, as Burgess himself claimed, and in 1986 published the script of A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music.

Since then, the show has been successfully performed by college and university drama groups and by professional theatre companies all over the world.

“The theatre version is a lot more faithful to the novel,” Mr Flask remarked.

“Burgess basically took it upon himself to right Kubrick’s wrongs and restore it to its original message,” he continued.

Teatru Malta is now staging its own adaptation of the play, Larinġa Mekkanika, in collaboration with ŻiguŻajg Festival 2019 and Spazju Kreattiv.

Mr Flask was given the  gargantuan task of translating Burgess’s script into Maltese.

One of biggest challenges was translating  the fictional register or argot used by the teenagers in the novel, which Burgess ‒ a linguist ‒ titled Nadsat and is a hybrid of English and Russian (Nadsat means ‘teen’ in Russian).

In times when hatred is the common currency, it is indeed a very relevant topic

“The complexity lies in the fact that A Clockwork Orange is a product of the Cold War era in which Burgess created a mix of the main languages of the West and East sides of the Iron Curtain. There is no such division today and Maltese has never had any rivalry with Soviet Russia,” he said.

“I went for the familiar division between Maltese and English, something the Education Minister has referred to recently − the diatribe between Fonzu l-Fenek and Peppa Pig.”

He also added some colloquialisms, idioms and sayings that are endemic to Malta.

The main challenge, however, was adapting A Clockwork Orange ‒ known for its brutal and dark scenes ‒ for a teen audience. Mr Flask strived to do this while keeping his version as faithful to the author’s script and to his original message as possible.

The plot follows Alex (played by Jamie Cardona), a violent teenager who together, with his gang of troublemakers, commits a series of hate crimes and some shocking acts in a near-dystopian future.

As in the original version, the play raises a series of moral questions such as should punishment be as extreme as the crime? How does one deal with such tough-skinned delinquents such as Alex and his droogs? Can people actually function like a clockwork machine controlled by the State?

Charlotte Stafrace, Paul Portelli (centre) and Mikhail Basmadjian form part of the ensemble cast.Charlotte Stafrace, Paul Portelli (centre) and Mikhail Basmadjian form part of the ensemble cast.

In Mr Flask’s opinion, the play is still very relevant today as Burgess’s novel is mainly concerned with human nature, whether humans are innately evil or have a possibility for reform.

“In times when hatred is the common currency, it is indeed a very relevant topic,” he said.

He added that the production presents a very cynical view of both youth and authority.

“Maybe things are not so dark in real life, somebody would say, but a quick look at the court stories will tell you there are grim realities out there we hardly know about,” he said.

Larinġa Mekkanika, rated 11+, is directed by Sean Buhagiar and stars a strong ensemble cast that includes Paul Portelli, Stephen Mintoff, Charlotte Stafrace, Monique Dimech Genuis, Benjamin Abela, Mikhail Basmadjian and Isabel Warrington. It also features an original soundtrack by Mario Sammut.

Asked what should entice youths to watch this performance, Mr Flask noted that it’s an approachable way to see a theatrical masterpiece adapted to Maltese.

“I think theatre adaptations such as this should be a boost to Maltese theatre and allow more use of Maltese theatres,” he said.

Larinġa Mekkanika opened yesterday and is being staged again at the Valletta Campus Theatre today and tomorrow at 7.30pm and on Sunday at 7pm. For more information and tickets, visit www.ziguzajg.org or call 2122 0255.

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