What Makes The Hunky Star Of “A Clockwork Orange” Tick

Jonno Davies leads the savagely homoerotic stage adaptation.

Pry your eyes open wide, theatergoers, because Jonno Davies looks very good being bad in A Clockwork Orange.

Based on the dystopian 1962 Anthony Burgess novel that also inspired the Oscar-nominated 1971 film, director Alexandra Spencer-Jones’ brutal and ballsy stage adaptation opens tonight off-Broadway. Direct from the hit London run, Davies reprises his role as ultra-violent antihero Alex DeLarge, teenage leader of a gang of juvenile delinquents known as droogs.

But when it comes to leading his all-male, oft-shirtless cast, the British actor would much rather kiss than kill.

Jonno Davies
Caitlin McNaney

The word on the street is that A Clockwork Orange has the sexiest cast in New York. True or false?

[Laughs] I like that. For my boys, I’m going to say it’s true.

As the only actor who came over from London, you’re working with all new droogs. How did you bond with your American boys?

We go out and paint the town orange! No, no, it’s such an ensemble that camaraderie very naturally develops. There’s a lot of violence on stage, so trust has to come very quickly. Our warm-ups are very camaraderie-based: We work out together for 40 intense minutes, getting our sweat on for what’s to come. We don’t hire lads because they’re muscly, but they get muscly doing the show. It’s a bonus.

Are these pre-show workouts about looking jacked with your shirts off?

It’s much more than that. It’s about safety and stamina. The show is 90 minutes straight through and only 18 pages of text, so much of the story is told through physicality. We’re going 100 miles an hour, full-throttle, so a little stretch isn’t enough. We need to know our bodies are capable, which allows an order in the chaos. And when the body’s warm, the mind follows.

That said, some tickets have probably been sold based on the promise of shirtless hunks. Do you mind being a little objectified?

I totally get it. Women have been objectified enough on stage and screen, so it’s about time for men to be objectified as well. But I’m confident that the people who come for that will leave with a lot more—questioning morality and what it means to be good. They might even learn a little bit about themselves.

Caitlin McNaney

What’s it like having to strip to your underwear every night in front of complete strangers?

It was a bit of a shock at first, but now it’s second nature, really. When I got cast in the show about three years ago, I watched the trailer and saw all these topless, well-built lads. I wasn’t body-confident. Growing up, I was really skinny, and I also have pectus excavatum, where the shape of your chest and ribs is a bit strange. I knew that if I did the show, I couldn’t be self-conscious. So I hit the gym. I wanted to be confident so that I could focus on the violence, torture, and everything else.

Having men playing all the roles, including females, gives the play a homoerotic vibe. Is that intentional?

I’d say that’s a happy accident. It’s exploring masculinity and adolescent sexuality, so you’re naturally going to have that homoeroticism. It’s also kind of genderfluid—we don’t say, “This character’s a boy! Now this character’s a girl!” With an all-male cast, you can blur those lines. When we took the show to Singapore, it was celebrated there as a sort of LGBT flagship.

It’s attracting gay audiences in New York as well, just as it did in London.

I suppose that’s surprising when you look at the film and novel, which don’t really have strong homosexual connotations. But our show is so sexually charged and unashamed. It’s about rebelling against what some believe is the norm, and it’s a rally for those who don’t fit in or don’t feel accepted. So I can totally see why the LGBT audience has connected to it.

Caitlin McNaney

As a straight actor, how does it feel to have the support of that audience so early in your career?

It’s gorgeous and totally humbling. I’ve played gay characters, homophobic characters, all over that spectrum, and I’ve always been interested to see how the gay community perceives my performances. It’s heartwarming to have people enjoying and genuinely wishing me the best, and I’ve actually felt that more here in New York than anywhere else. Long may it continue.

Thanks to A Clockwork Orange, you’ve probably kissed more boys in the past few years than I have.

And I’ve kissed some beautiful boys, like Matt Doyle—oh, my word.

I’m glad you brought him up. I was going to ask if you were aware that your off-Broadway co-star is a huge gay heartthrob on the New York theater scene.

Absolutely, and he’s exceptionally talented as well. I can totally see why he’s had the success and support that he’s had. I’m grateful that his fans have locked on to the show and are enjoying this new route of his journey.

Did that same-sex intimacy take some getting used to?

I’ll welcome a stubble rash wherever needed. [Laughs] I’ve done all-male versions of Shakespeare in drama school as well. I remember dressing up as Lady MacBeth in a corset, pearl necklace, and red lipstick, and getting quite intimate. So I’m all about that life.

A Clockwork Orange was written in 1962. Why does the story still resonate with audiences today?

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it wasn’t written this year. Look at our social classes, the generations blaming each other, some of the political figures we have in charge—every day, there’s another piece of news you can compare to A Clockwork Orange. It’s about anarchy and standing up for what you believe in. In the world today, shows that put a light on hatred and love are second to none in terms of importance.

You’ve been playing Alex since 2014. Has the character rubbed off on you?

Totally. Besides using his lingo in conversation, I feel like I’ve matured with him and that he’s given me a voice. I used to be very passive in life, just accepting things for what I was told, whereas now I’ve started fighting for my own opinions. It’s important, especially for the younger generation, to start questioning stuff. Ignorance is not useful in the world, because there are too many things we need to know about and strive to make better.

Alex does some pretty nasty things in the show. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Oh, nothing I can tell you here, Brandon. I do try to stay on the straight and narrow, but boys will be boys, droogs will be droogs.

A Clockwork Orange runs through January 6 at New World Stages in New York.

Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.