13th April 2012

Saturday night, Sunday morning

It lacks the heart of the novel and film, but this adaptation of Sunday morning still has a lot to offer

3 stars

Despite what Hollywood’s version of history would have us believe, James Dean did not invent the angst-ridden rebel without a cause. Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, the play based on the 1958 novel, aptly demonstrates this. Set during post-war Britain, the plot revolves around Arthur Seaton, a carefree young factory worker whose sexual appetite is never satisfied and often lands him into trouble. Though it doesn’t quite live up to the iconic film adaptation, director Matthew Dunster’s effort is nonetheless an impressive show.

Portrayed by This Is England star Perry Fitzpatrick, Seaton spends his wages getting drunk, buying expensive suits and womanizing. His love interest is the married Brenda and it appears as toxic as it is genuine – as genuine as Seaton can be that is.

Fitzpatrick’s performance is a mixed bag. At times it’s captivating, matching the larger-than-life character he plays. But he’s instantly dislikable, and all too often crosses the line of the guy you love to hate to the guy you just plain hate. Anti-heroes like Seaton only work if they have some kind likability about them. Instead, his boorish manor exposes little human compassion, and the audience is left staggered and irritated as to how he attracts so many women, rather than impressed.

The most iconic moment – the home abortion scene – is perhaps a little drawn out, but it is well-executed and delivers the harrowing subject in a delicate manor.

Despite its flaws, the theme of a disillusioned youth, staring at a bleak future in the Cold War setting whilst witnessing Britain’s international decline, holds the story together well. The soundtrack, the teddy boy outfits, and the casual sexism all come together to bring the 1950s to life. The small, adaptive stage is superbly utilised too, ensuring a display that is visually engaging throughout.

This is a slick piece of theatre that captures the product of the emerging affluent working-class youth of the time well. All that’s lacking – and it is a serious omission – is the heart of the story. Unfortunately, this does put it some way behind both the novel and the film adaptation.

Richard Crook

Richard Crook

Editor-in-chief at The Mancunion. E-mail me at [email protected].

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