A Clockwork Orange: Punk Opera (also known as Tokeijikake no ORENJI / 時計じかけのオレンジ) is a musical starring Oguri Shun as Alex. Based on the well-known book by Anthony Burgess, it’s as sexually violent as Stanley Kubrick’s movie version, but without the sense of safety that a cinema screen provides. Meanwhile, Oguri Shun is a popular young actor with a ton of female fans. What could go wrong?
The opening was fantastic. Alex and his droogs walked onto the stage with stylised lighting and angled mirrors on either side. A board above their head glossed the words in the song, which used a large amount of nadsat, a type of futuristic slang invented by Burgess just for the book . A lot of time was spent illustrating the old in-out-in-out overhead, leaving no doubt as to its meaning. It was a fun song, and that was pretty much as far as I thought this production would push the boundaries.
However, one scene near the starts depicts the gang’s brutal attack of a writer and his wife, with a great deal of attention (and nudity) given to the wife’s rape. It was tough to watch and I definitely saw a walkout at this point, although this will probably decrease as more people become aware of the musical’s content.
The Japanese entertainment industry is bland, idol-centric affair where fans have seemingly limitless control. Stars have to apologise if they are so much as seen with a member of the opposite sex outside of work. And despite what you might have read on the internet about edgy late-night Japanese cable shows, those are hardly mainstream. This heavily-advertised musical starring a major actor represents a real departure from norm. I’m glad Oguri decided to do it.
The musical sometimes seems fairly casual, which is best illustrated by the intermission. At this point, Alex has gone to jail for murder (yes, as you might have heard, Oguri gets naked to put on his prison jumpsuit) and is undergoing the Ludovico Technique. Even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you’ll know this iconic scene as the one where Alex’s eyes are held open with wires in a form of aversion therapy. At this point, one of the doctors moves down-stage and announces the interval and its length, while Alex is left screaming on stage for the duration.
I had a cup of coffee in the lobby while listening to Oguri Shun’s screams and the giggles of his fans at his apparent misery. Interestingly, this had the effect of maximising Alex’s crimes and minimising his suffering for them. I was in a theatre drinking coffee and the pain he was going through on stage was very far away. And kind of funny.
This “Punk Opera” is the first production of A Clockwork Orange in Japan and is probably based on a translation of Anthony Burgess’ stageplay. That’s just my guess based on the fact that it credits him for the script — I can’t find any reference elsewhere to a A Clockwork Orange musical that specifically resembles this one in setting or musical style.
Overall, I enjoyed it very much. I’m a fan of the book and this was a fascinating, stylised musical take on it. You can find the official site here, which has a number of promo videos for you to watch, while there is a site just for the Tokyo performances here. Keep reading for an explanation of how you can get tickets for this and other Japanese stage shows and musicals using the toujitsuken system.
What is “toujitsuken”?
Toujiitsuken (当日券) literally translates to “same-day ticket” and does indeed refer to buying tickets a few hours before the start of a performance. However, in practice, it often means that a popular show has sold out and the only other option available is to turn up early and buy your ticket before other fans have a chance. This can be more difficult than it sounds — productions aimed at younger and more devoted audiences (Prince of Tennis musicals, etc) often restrict how early you can queue and many use a lottery system (seiriken / 整理券).
I went to a matinee performance of A Clockwork Orange on a weekday, which pretty much cemented my chances of getting in. Even so, the theatre was only a few seats from sold-out. I chose a standing ticket, which meant I stood at the back on the lower floor and leaned on a railing. I don’t know if sitting-seats were still available when I bought my ticket — all I know is that I bought the cheapest at 5,000 yen and I wasn’t prepared to go higher than that. If I were going to the final show (senshuuraku / 千秋楽), I’d have expected to receive a lottery ticket to determine my order in the ticket-buying queue.
First of all, check the website for the toujitsuken start time. In almost all cases, it’s an hour before doors open. I’ve never found the perfect time to arrive, particularly when showing up too late means you don’t get a good position in the queue or miss out on the lottery ticket and showing up too early can — in theory — mean getting barred from the performance. If there is a magic time to appear, it’s probably five or so minutes before the listed toujitsuken time. Lurk, then spring forward into the rapidly-forming queue the minute you hear a member of staff say ‘toujitsuken’. Obviously, if everyone else is already lined up, join the queue.
For the second Kuroshitsuji musical at the same theatre, the line was determined to be too long and a box filled with plastic tags brought out. We each took a tag and lined up according to the number we drew. For some musicals, everyone is given a ticket and then the winning numbers are revealed about half an hour later on a large board outside the venue.
For this particular performance of A Clockwork Orange, a woman came out, looked at the miserable toujitsuken line (around ten people) and decided the box wouldn’t be needed. So the lottery system isn’t always used, but you’ll be prepared if it is.