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Saturday Night & Sunday Morning (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Nottingham life in the 1950s is brought to life by Matthew Dunster, in the stage adaptation of Alan Sillitoes’s iconic novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Gaining an insight into factory workers’ day to day lives and the harsh reality of the army, the play focuses on Arthur Seaton (Perry Fitzpatrick). Our protagonist is a 20-something, who despite the issues of politics and trade unions surrounding him, prioritises sex, booze and rock and roll.

But after the fun of dating three women on a Saturday night, Arthur has to soon face the reality of his actions on a Sunday morning in this strong adaptation.

With the unique circular set up at the Royal Exchange, Dunster successfully utilities the space to portray the different scenes from a pub to a living room to a fair, even using audience participation at stages throughout.

Fitzpatrick, who remains on stage for the duration of the play, gives a very strong performance conveying a huge variety of emotions. Arthur is not a character that an audience member can immediately relate to, but by the close you fall for his wit and charm. The audience sees Arthur progress on a journey which begins with a devil-may-care attitude and  eventually falling in love. Fitzpatrick keeps the intimate audience engaged throughout with the emotive delivery of his countless speeches.

Some scenes though do require some editing. One in particular was Brenda (Clare Calbraith) in the bath. What begins as a very moving scene between those involved soon feels long and drawn out. The desired effect of tension, anger and sadness between the characters is already felt long before the scene comes to an end.

A nice addition is the symbolism showcased by Arthur’s portrayal of dominance at the beginning of the play undressing three different women. However by the hangover of the Sunday morning the tables have turned and it is his parents undressing him. This is an extremely clever way to give the us insight into the changing times of Arthur’s life.

Even though the play covered a range of serious topics, there was is underlying, subtle humour throughout. Especially through the work of Jo Hartley, who plays Emler and Mrs Greatton. Graeme Hawley's Jack also brings wit, but it is also interesting to see the progression in his and Arthur’s relationship, through these testing times.

Pete Rice's evocative sound design takes you right back to the 1950s, combined with the excellent props and Anna Fleischle's brilliant set design and Lucy Carter's lighting. Combined - these elements bring every scene and the harsh times to life.

Dunster has crafted a pleasing adaptation with welcome additions, showcasing some promising young talent, meaning that this Saturday is worth a watch any night of the week.

- Lauren Maughan

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