Review: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe at Colchester Mercury, until May 24

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Arthur Seaton is a rebel with two causes: booze and women. And Saturday is the night he brings them together on a regular basis. The girls love him because he’s charismatic and good looking but also because he’s dangerous. Another 1950s angry young man.

He rails against the world and his boring work in the bicycle factory and the women don’t really understand what Arthur’s about – except that his mind is only ever on one thing, sex – and, one way or another, they take what they can get of him.

Amanda Whittington’s adaptation of Sillitoe’s book on Sara Perks’ clever, dark, bold set, encapsulating everything from a factory floor to a funfair with flashing lights, is directed by Tony Casement. He gives the play a surreal touch which, as Arthur confides his slightly scattergun secrets and worries directly to the audience, creates stage images that also allow brief fantasy visits into to his thoughts.

Although often quite funny, this is sometimes a pretty seedy glimpse back at post-war austerity Britain – not least the rather realistic abortion scene during which a young woman in the audience fainted and the auditorium had to be cleared while she was treated by medics and then taken home.

Arthur is completely amoral. Quite apart from the fact that every other line he spins is a lie, he’s having affairs with two sisters, both of them married to friends of his. But he does it with such charm that you can’t help liking him.

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Everybody keeps telling him that what he wants is a special girl who he can marry, although nothing, he says, is further from his thoughts. But, this being the Fifties when the wicked always got their comeuppance, Arthur does not go unpunished. But could it be that Doreen, a pretty new temptation on the scene, is part of that fate? And can she change him?

Patrick Knowles is an attractive bad boy Arthur, utterly confident and full of himself and he’s nicely matched by Gina Isaac and Hester Arden as Brenda and Winnie, his two married paramours.

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Elizabeth Twells plays Doreen with plenty of sparkle and Ian Kirkby is good as Jack, one of those being cuckcolded by Arthur. An old Mercury favourite Tim Treslove, plays several parts, not least a hilarious Irish drunk, and a number of very efficient extras give the stage a lot of telling busy movement.

David Henshall.

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