Mr Monkey sees Saturday Night and Sunday Morning at the Royal Exchange Theatre, 5th March
Mr Monkey went into Manchester for the press night of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Mr Monkey scampered into the theatre, looked at a poster to check he had the right night, then scurried up to the Mezzanine Gallery to see Birth Rights.
Back downstairs Mr Monkey looked at some fashion plates, which had inspired the costume designer, in the Education Lounge's table, and went to settle down to watch the play start.
This production is an adaptation by the director, Matthew Dunster, of Alan Sillitoe's 1958 book. The book itself was a publishing sensation at the time, and was based on Sillitoe's life as a youth in Nottingham, before he moved to the continent.
The action of the play takes place in the streets, bars, bicycle factories, parlours and bedrooms of Nottingham, and centres on the chaotic life of Arthur Seaton and its impact on the lives of his family, friends and work colleagues.
Much of this impact is caused by Arthur being totally self-centred and either wilfully or carelessly destructive in his relationships with others. This seems to stem from his having relatively high wages and no interests apart from working, drinking, dressing smartly and sleeping with married women.
As Arthur, Perry Fitzpatrick was so convincingly awful that Mr Monkey spent much of the time hoping he'd be involved in a freak bicycle-related tool and lathe accident.
Many of the cast were playing two parts, and coped admirably with changes from character to character, and with costume changes on or offstage. The nature of the play - and presumably the source novel - does however mean that Arthur dominates the play. All the other characters - even Clare Calbraith's excellent Brenda and Tamla Kari's naive Doreen - seem underdeveloped in comparison to Arthur.
The set and sound are effective throughout. The set is very fluid with a lot of furniture being moved as part of the action, and sometimes two scenes are merged - Arthur's lover probably wasn't drinking gin in a hot bath in the middle of a party at his aunt's house. The Raleigh factory is effectively depicted as a semi-abstract background to Arthur's musings on life and his place in it, and the Nottingham Goose Fair is particularly well recreated with a combination of dramatic lighting and parts of rides - ghost train, carousel, spinning teacups - presenting all the fun of the fair (with a side order of aggrieved husband).
Mr Monkey enjoyed this play, but warns that the production includes some strobe lighting, much strong language, some nudity and a lot of late 1950s corsetry.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning runs until April 7th 2012.