Star rating - 8/10
Young actor Perry Fitzpatrick proves that he can carry off a big performance in his role as Arthur Seaton in ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ at the Royal Exchange. As the narrator of the play, Perry carries each and every scene with an assured, swaggering, and charismatic performance as cock of the north - or in this case Nottingham . And I’ve never seen an actor called to get dressed and undressed so much in a single play.
Perry is from Nottingham himself, so this seems a part tailor made for him in every way. Arthur works at the Raleigh cycle factory, and loves nothing more than to spend his wages on sharp suits and beer. He spends his time in a heady cocktail of rebelling against authority, and chasing married women. He’s a bad boy that you can’t help but love for his charm and hidden heart of gold.
Directed by the accomplished Exchange veteran Matthew Dunster, it got off to a bit patchy start. The echoes at the same time as the actors speaking didn’t really work, and the actors coming on in triplicate as the same character seemed unnecessarily diverting. The scenery malfunction with one of the lights crashing to the floor can’t have helped much. But the second half really fizzed along, and the fairground scene at the Goose Fair was brilliant.
There are other impressive performances from Clare Calbraith as one of Arthur’s married love interests, Brenda; especially a long and harrowing scene involving that old wives’ remedy for an unwanted pregnancy - a very hot bath and too much gin. Tamla Kari is spirited as Doreen - the one who finally tames him into domesticity– or at least who thinks she has.
Adapted from Alan Sillitoe’s 1958 novel, this play is still hard hitting, though obviously now more of a period piece than a commentary on current morality and society, but it’s still seriously good drama. So it’s a major return to form for the Exchange, and a sizzling performance to remember from Perry Fitzpatrick.