School stands by Clockwork Orange

15th July 2005 at 01:00
A play about a vicious gang that get their teenage kicks through mindless violence launched a new theatre at a north London school this week.

Rosemary Leeke, the headteacher at South Camden community school, defended the decision to stage Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.

She said it was a morality play that had nothing to do with Stanley Kubrick's controversial film: "The play does not glorify violence. Burgess thought Kubrick's film was a travesty of what he was trying to do in his novella. It is about choice. The play ends with the lines: Here is good, and there is evil - look on both, then take your choice."

Kubrick withdrew his film adaptation of the book from the UK in 1973 following a spate of copycat violence.

The play features a fight scene performed as a choreographed dance and the rest of the violence happens off stage. Year 7 pupils had to be accompanied by an adult.

Piers Wauchope, the leader of the Conservatives at Camden council criticised the school's choice: "It is all very well saying it is a moral tale but a large part of the play must depict the most awful behaviour.

This is a story of a 15-year-old rapist and murderer. However much they distance themselves from the film the fact is that most people will be drawn to the play because of the film."

John Wilks, general secretary of the London Association for the Teaching of English, said: "It is up to the school whether they put it on. We still live in a democracy."

Sixth-former Adrian Brimpong played Burgess's anti-hero Alex in the production which finished its two-day run last night at the school's new pound;75,000 theatre.

The school, a specialist arts college, is in Somerstown, situated between Kings Cross and Camden Town, two of London's main drug markets.

Ms Leeke believes the play's themes will strike a chord with students: "I am not saying our pupils are more at risk of violence than pupils in other parts of London, but I do warn them against it.

"In some cases our students have been victims of quite serious crime - crimes of violence. We had a case of a student abducted after school.

"I hope the play is a way of exploring these issues and how in the end it is about individuals making a choice. That choice is the most powerful way of changing things."

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