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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Adapted for the stage and directed by Matthew Dunster

Royal Exchange Theatre, 5 March 2012

Perry Fitzpatrick as Arthur Seaton and Clare Calbraith as Brenda in SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (Royal Exchange Theatre until 7 April). Photo - Jonathan Keenan.

Perry Fitzpatrick as Arthur Seaton and Clare Calbraith as Brenda in SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (Royal Exchange Theatre until 7 April). Photo - Jonathan Keenan.

This tightly constructed stage adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s seminal working class novel works surprisingly well.

The word ‘set’ seems altogether too static a description for the way in which the Royal Exchange’s relatively small circular stage is transformed into a pub, a bicycle factory, a fair, a cinema, a bedroom and living room…  It’s all so smoothly done: here, truly, the stage is – as Sergei Tretyakov taught – a machine.

Matthew Dunster has sculptured the novel as almost a Jacobin tragedy, with Arthur Seaton (played by Perry Fitzpatrick; and note Arthur has the same initials as his creator) as a classic (never mind working class) over-reacher.  With plenty of money in his pocket (this is the late ‘50s), and what with booze and women on tap, Arthur is a strutting cock who’s got the world by the tail.  Or so he thinks.  Comeuppance follows hubris in due course, but the bastards don’t quite grind the rough edges off our Arthur.  No, it takes a girl with a good heart to do that.  Westerby’s hero made his way to London, Arthur remains a wide boy in factory: a fish out of water.

There’re quite excellent performances all around, not least from Perry Fitzpatrick in the central role.  His charismatic turn held the audience’s attention throughout and his triumph was a telling reflection on Sillitoe’s strengths as writer too, I think: Seaton is such a strong character and his speech so vivid, you can get a fair few soliloquys out of the novel, no problem.  Including the well known, ‘Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not…’ as pilfered by the Arctic Monkeys.  Arthur is itching to tell the world what he thinks of it, and Perry Fitzpatrick’s performance certainly delivers on that score.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, a production bristling with brilliance, is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 7 April, further details are here.

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