Saturday Night, Sunday Morning was Alan Stillitoe’s first novel – an angry piece set in working class Nottingham. It follows Arthur Seaton, one of the original bad lads. A heavy-drinking womaniser with a meagre existence, his duplicity and cocky nature is about to catch him up – but has he ruined the chance of settling down with a girl who might actually stand by him? And in this coming of age story, will Arthur actually mature?
Inventive set design helped to convey the multiple locations the story is set in. Revolving sections of the floor spin and twist objects and people whilst a overhead rail has objects from bicycle wheels to Arthur’s wardrobe swinging in. Subtle lighting changes change the ambience and mood nicely, from the stark lighting in Brenda’s abortion scene through the very effective fairground sequence at the Goose Fair showing off the technical accomplishments of the staging team and director Matthew Dunster.
Perry Fitzpatrick has a very brave stab at Arthur. Carrying the play and in every scene, there is a lot to ask of him. For the most part he is successful. Occasionally his Nottingham accent slips – I missed some of his lines as his voice appeared slurred. A complex character to bring to life, he doesn’t entirely work, whether this is down to the adaptation or Fitzpatrick himself I’m not sure, perhaps it is a combination of the two. I didn’t connect with him, but others in the audience were captivated by his every word. It was never conclusive why all the ladies fall for him, but fall for him they do. I found his character irritating and was cheering when he got his comeuppance, so Fitzpatrick must have been doing his job properly to have evoked that reaction from me. He had a swagger and a glint in his eye that certainly seemed to endear him to certain sections of the female audience!
Clare Calbraith is a good foil for the cocky ‘affections’ of Fitzpatrick. Her Brenda is enjoying the ride until Sunday Morning rears its ugly head. The abortion scene where Brenda is forced to endure a scalding bath whilst swigging from a gin bottle is a terribly uncomfortable piece of theatre. Harrowing and stark in equal measure with an unrelenting clock ticking away in the background, it is one of the more successful scenes of the play.
Newcomer Tamla Kari is perfect as the demure Doreen. It remains to be seen whether Seaton grinds her down as well, but she brings a warmth and girl-next-door quality lacking from Seaton’s other ‘conquests’. Graeme Hawley, better known as Coronation Street‘s mass murderer John Stape ably supports as the cuckholded and loyal Jack.
I hadn’t read the novel or seen the famous movie with Arthur Finney before, I’d always been aware of it and wanted to see it, but came to the story cold. It certainly helped having people in my group who had seen it who confirmed it was a faithful adaptation. Uncomfortable and haunting in places, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is a window into a world that although set long ago still has worrying resonance today in our world of ABSO’s, binge drinking and riots. With inventive staging, colourful backdrops, 50’s fashions and a sharp eye for detail, this is another fine adaptation from the Royal Exchange brought to life by an impressive young cast. What misfires there are in the adaptation are balanced out by the technical accomplishments on stage. Referenced by the Arctic Monkeys and Morrissey amongst others, it remains just as relevant a portrait of embittered youth then, as it does now.
The Fiction Stroker gives Saturday Night, Sunday Morning LIVE! four strokes out of five:
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning runs at Manchester’s Royal Exchange until April 7.