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Saturday, 3 March 2012

Theatre Review: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

I went to see Saturday Night and Sunday Morning at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester tonight. It reminded me of the first play I ever saw at the Royal Exchange: Jim Cartright's Road, which I must have seen fifteen or twenty years ago. Cartright's play was a joy to watch, a raunchy, foul-mouthed and hilarious tribute to working class life in Lancashire during the Thatcher years. The play was held together by Scullery the narrator, played by the excellent Bernard Wrigley, who roamed the set and introduced the different scenes. Genius!

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning does not have the riotous humour of Road. Adapted from Sillitoes fine novel it moves at a slower pace. It depicts working class life in Nottingham in the 1950s, it's about the monotony of factory work in mundane post-war Britain versus the hedonism of Arthur Seaton the play's protagonist. Seaton works in a bicycle factory on 'good money' or £14 per week. He spends his money on clothes, beer and women: short-term gratification, because according to Seaton, "The longer you keep your money, the less it's worth". A word here about the excellent performance of a young actor called Perry Fitzpatrick, who plays the confident, amoral, hedonistic Arthur Seaton. Fitzpatrick is on stage throughout the play, his costume changes are completed on stage and mark the changing scenes as well as his changing social roles.

Fitzpatrick plays Seaton with a swagger but captures too the subtle changes in Seaton's values and beliefs as he drifts away from his old life of hard drinking, sex with married women and fights with their husbands to commitment, monogamy and maturity - love, as they say, conquers all. There are subtle changes too in Seaton's political views; so there are a couple of monologues in which he attacks the government, the Labour Exchange and the tax man for exploiting him and robbing him of his hard earned income. But whilst the young Seaton voted communist with his father's polling card, the older Seaton appears much more sceptical of social organisation and much more individualistic.

The responsibility for carrying the play is with the egotistic Seaton, and fittingly the cast and even the furniture moves around him; but credit must be given to the rest of the cast, especially Clare Calbraith (Brenda) for stepping naked into a hot bath - a scalding bath and a pint of gin brings on the miscarriage she seeks after Arthur Seaton gets her pregnant. The cast work hard to keep the show lively and entertaining as it faithfully lays before us the contents of Sillitoe's novel and the growing pains of Arthur Seaton.

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