Theater Spotlight: Jonno Davies

UK Breakout Debuts in New York

British star of stage and screen Jonno Davies recently took his first trip to New York City and was amazed by the vastness of the buildings, an ironic experience as he continues to take on a role as strenuous as it is chaotic. He emerges in the New York stage premiere of A Clockwork Orange opening September 25 at New World Stages playing the lead Alex DeLarge which recently wrapped a sold-out run in London.

Under the direction (and choreography) of Alexandra Spencer-Jones, the production is of course an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel of the same name, further made famous by Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 cult classic. A Clockwork Orange tackles good vs. evil and the search for identity in a coming-of-age story that finds main character DeLarge, a violent teenager and sociopath creeping through a dystopian society with his gang of thugs.

25-year-old Davies is the sole talent to appear in both productions, this new one restaged, shifting from an in-the-round UK set. Jonno is the third actor to play Alex, having also starred in the Norway and Singapore productions. Music and movement are at the core of the narrative; they are in fact a part of the language of the storytelling, in addition to the fictional Nadsat language spoken by the hoodlums. DeLarge has a fascination with Beethoven and the production includes modern music as well, interspersed into the scenes with David Bowie, Queen and more. The cast demands a high level of physicality, with an ensemble that is a collection of martial artists, boxers, ballet dancers and overall lots of athleticism and risk-taking. Jonno Davies spoke with New
York City Monthly on the play’s parallels to problems in society, the demand of his first stage appearance in New York and the physical elements of the production.

You are making your New York stage debut after already playing the lead in A Clockwork Orange in London. What if anything do you think will be most challenging about this new production?

The first thing that comes to my mind is we have to re-choreograph the piece because the last time we did the piece it was in the round with 200 people. So, we need to change the choreography quite a lot. It’s just fun because it keeps it fresh for me. And I guess the fact that I’m working with a totally new pool of actors. Whenever I’ve done a show before I’ve been with actors that have done it a lot longer than I have. But this time I’m going to have to be the fountain of knowledge of what goes where. A little bit more maturity I guess on my part.

You were in Shakespeare in Love, Dracula, Kingsman: The Secret Service and more. Since you are relatively unknown in the U.S., what else can you tell us about your theater and acting past.

I’ve been quite lucky. I went straight to arts school [Italia Conti Academy] and thankfully worked quite consistently which is refreshing for an actor, and it’s been a balance of stage and screen. You learn on one job and take what you learned onto the next. Shakespeare in Love was my West End debut, a big scale production and
it was my first experience with a long-running show which was about twenty weeks, similar to what Clockwork Orange is going to be. Physically, vocally, emotionally, doing eight shows a week is a big learning curve to make sure everything is fresh and it doesn’t go dry. I did a lot of street dancing as a kid, the movement in this show bleeds into the text. I love to start with the body first with theater, that’s a great way for the audience to understand who the character is.

Broadway is my most exciting job to date, I can’t wait. This is going to be our fourth time doing Clockwork with Alexandra and what’s been great is each time we have readdressed the character, we tried to capture something new about him, either reflecting what’s going on in society or a certain character trait we are trying to push.

What is most thrilling about this dark and violent show for you as an actor and what emotions and skills do you get to highlight that most actors would never get the chance to?

It’s the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life. There’s a huge amount of testosterone and it’s a real adrenaline rush where the ball never drops. You kind of hit this weird middle line where you don’t know if you’re going to fall asleep or kind of explode and I can’t articulate it yet. I want to bottle it and sell it and make a lot of money from it. It comes from the passion of the audience and from a passionate director who is blood and guts.

Since you are the only actor who will be coming to New York for this performance, what do you hope you can bring to the cast and the production to get the other actors up to speed?

First of all, they’re going to have to nail a Manchester accent, not even a British accent. It’s not an accent that is very common, hopefully I can help with that.

There’s a certain workload of what we go through, and a sacrifice, we are going through like an artistic battle, injuries, emotional topics that we put ourselves through. The physical intensity is huge, it’s kind of monumental. I want to bring that into them. The sooner they experience the kind of physical, the more they will adapt to becoming like actor warriors.

Broadway and Off-Broadway continue to be red hot, why with all the choices out there should theater-goers decide to check out A Clockwork Orange?

There’s top competition right now. I think it’s the closest that you’ll get to putting a magnifying glass on the exploration of masculinity of what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a man. This story was written fifty years ago in the early 1960s and something that is so timeless like that of The Beatles, I genuinely feel the Clockwork story has those fibers.

You still have different generations blaming one another for societal problems. Not to point fingers but Alex is a young man who wants to save the world, where people think he’s a villain. There are numerous world leaders, our world is more fractured than ever. People want to see an artistic interpretation of what’s happening and what’s been happening. On top of that, if people like to see sweaty actors who are busting their guts and giving everything they can along with the reflection of society I think Clockwork’s the place to come.