The controversy that surrounded Stanley Kubrick’s film of Clockwork Orange was uniquely situated in the British Isles. Given that his adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel was based on an unfortunate American edition – which missed out Burgess’ crucial last chapter – Kubrick’s subsequent withdrawal of the film from UK availability was more ironic than reasonable response. The novel then became something of a cult classic, even though its use of an invented patois and lengthy meditations on good and evil are already enough to make it stand alone even within Burgess’ own idiosyncratic catalogue.

As Jeremy Raison’s last direction for The Citizens – he recently departed after seven years – Clockwork Orange battles with the story’s established history and modern relevance. Dressing up the “droogs” as contemporary hipsters, it escapes the iconic white suited bovver boys of the film, and its versatile set evokes modern housing estates and drab prison chapels. Yet it can never escape Burgess’ lapsed Catholicism: the priest becomes the voice of conscience, attempting to find a morality in the face of state expediency.

This production gains its energy from Jay Taylor’s remarkable portrayal of Alex. Violent thug, sensitive fan of Beethoven, moralist and victim of government manipulation: he weaves through the heavy script with a Machiavellian delight, spouting an almost Shakespearian eloquence. From his initial acts of narcotic fuelled violence to his final conclusion that it was all part of his maturing process, Alex is an amoral psychopath, charming and deadly.

This Clockwork Orange is unashamed of being an “issue based” play. Characters pontificate on good and evil, free will and fate – even if fate has become more a matter of the state’s intervention. It is wordy, despite a few interludes of “physical theatre”, and very much within the British tradition of theatre founded on the script. Burgess’ intelligence is hardly occluded by the references to contemporary horrors, and the production finds new ways of showing the iconic scenes of Alex’s horror-show antics and brutal cure.

The Citizens, under Giles Havergal, built a reputation for populist theatre, unafraid of contemporary adaptation. While Raison’s tenure was not uncontroversial, this farewell summons many of the qualities that the Southside theatre made its hallmarks.