THEATRE REVIEW: ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, Royal Exchange, Manchester, to April 7th

IF I were a believer in conspiracy theories, I might think theatres in the North West were out to get me to rediscover my life!

Thursday, 8th March 2012, 11:23 am

After the touring production of Alfie, I returned to my youth in the Sixties with Matthew Dunster’s adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s iconic novel, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”. I read it as a teenager and saw the memorable film.

I wondered how the Royal Exchange company were going to present the story about a Nottingham working class rebel. I was amazed and thrilled with this production. It makes no attempt to reproduce the reality of the bicycle factory where Arthur Seaton (Perry Fitpatrick) works, but the superb design (Anna Fleischle) creates on a bare stage the sense of the grinding repetition of the work and also the bedrooms and other places where Arthur seduces Brenda (Clare Calbraith), Winnie (Chanel Cresswell) and Doreen (Tamla Kari).

This is the Royal Exchange at its best. The entire cast whiz through the action seamlessly, moving props and furniture in a glorious dance and the lighting (Lucy Carter) skilfully accentuates every change and emotion.

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Perry Fitzpatrick is a terrific Arthur Seaton, an incredibly demanding role, on stage throughout. Clare Calbraith gives a moving performance as Brenda, forced to try the gin and hot bath attempt at an abortion. However, I think the element that struck me most was the sense of impending doom, mentioned by Arthur, that the bomb could go off at any time.

The Royal Exchange is fortunate in attracting a youngish audience and I found myself considering how they might view this play as a historical drama, whereas I can recall, all too vividly, how it felt to think the world could end at any moment. My companion recalled from her nursing experience the horrors of the results of back street abortions. This is a production well worth seeing, both for those who remember the Sixties and those who still endure inequalities today.

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