The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (The Musical)

LAST EVENING I VISITED the Nottingham Playhouse to see the opening night of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (The Musical), a new serving of author Alan Sillitoe’s classic and gritty take on Nottingham life in the late 1950s.  I’ll state my case straight away in the interests of fairness by saying that I’m not particularly a fan of musicals generally speaking so this will by no means be an attempt at a serious review of this albeit rather enjoyable production. Other will provide much more useful reviews, such as the one featured here in the Nottingham Post. I am however, a huge fan of Alan Sillitoe’s original book and the film derived from it and this is the reason I attended the pleasant arena of Nottingham Playhouse for the production’s initial showing.

The show is already in motion of sorts  as the audience are still filing in, with the infamous Saturday night scene from the White Horse at Radford beginning to build. There’s a hubbub from the throng of drinkers and cigarette smoke filters on stage through the still half-full auditorium. There’s a couple of black and white Notts County scarves in the mix along with a few ladies head scarves that help paint the scene of a vibrant working class suburb of post-war Nottingham.

Image from: ‘Arthur’s Blog’

Our working class anti-hero, Arthur Seaton, makes his first appearance and is immediately challenged to a drinking contest which he proceeds to win before fully throwing up over an innocent bystander in the pub followed by the unfortunate’s horrified wife in quick order!

It’s interesting to note how Seaton is portrayed, cocky as always and full of himself, ‘out for a good time and all the rest is propaganda‘. A more sensitive side to the character is shown however in Arthur’s Sunday morning fishing trips down the canal bank where he philosophises about his life and lot in his now peaceful environ, rod and reel in hand, bicycle by his side.

The musical takes us on a fun ride through a Thursday night at the local Goose Fair, a Monday evening date at the  ‘Granby’ picture house and several scenes back in the White Horse and his parent’s parlour. There’s a large cast and the show is dynamic and fast-moving. Some of the most arresting scenes were the depictions of the Raleigh cycle factory where everyone of a certain age in Nottingham knew someone who worked. We see Arthur at his ‘lathe’ getting up to mischief upsetting a female worker and putting forth his views on lifestyle, his own particular variation on morality and the working classes. There were good attempts at the local (very difficult to imitate) dialect. Certainly, this was not the actor Albert Finney’s strong suit it has to be said in an otherwise fantastic and convincing portrayal of Seaton in the original film so it would possibly be a little churlish to pick up on the minutia here.

Arthur’s visit to Goose Fair and the hiding he takes from two squaddies for his philandering misdemeanours are featured along with a protracted scene of his bed-ridden few days convalescing after his beating. A tender visit from his girl Doreen and some love and biscuits from his ‘mam’ are punctuated by the comical scene where Arthur, aided and abetted by his visiting pal, shoot the local gossip in the back side in the yard below from his bedroom window with an air gun.

It’s well-documented that Arthur Seaton turns from the brash and boozy  Saturday night womaniser and brawler to fall in love with Doreen and much of the second, shorter half of the production features this turnaround. One is reminded of the memorable closing scenes in the film epic as the young couple, with their lives in front of them, sit on a country hillside overlooking new houses being built in the far panorama as the 1960s dawn and the titles roll. It occurs to me that it would have been interesting to understand what happened to Arthur and Doreen in the ensuing years.

This story is of its time and was a landmark moment in literary and cinematographic history. It is however no less relevant in 2012 as was shown by this independent amateur production. It’s current short run ends on Saturday 12th May. If you like the late Alan Sillitoe’s portrayal of working class life in a Midlands city of the late 1950s it’s well worth giving this musical interpretation a visit.

May 9, 2012 - Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hi Stu, it’s good you’ve written a review of this because I’m off to see it tomorrow.

    A few years back I went to hear Alan Sillitoe speak at the ‘Southwell Poetry Festival’ – held in the library. He was a dapper, little man, dressed in a three piece suit with his pipe tucked in his breast pocket. Behind the desk where he sat was a small bookcase, absolutely full of the books he’d written. How admirable the man, to me he seemed like a modern day Charles Dickens.

    Alan told his audience that he’d written ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ whilst sitting under the orange trees in Majorca. He and his lady friend, American Poet, Ruth Fanlight (?) managed to live economically on Alan’s pension from the army.

    Anyway, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ was so successful at the box office that Cubby Broccoli (Producer/Director/Whatever?) was able to make the ‘James Bond’ films. Alan admitted that he felt quite proud of this!

    Happy writing times! Christine

    Comment by christine jackson straw | May 11, 2012

  2. Alan Sillitoe is a complete hero, Christine. Wish I’d had the pleasure of being in his company just once as I’m a great admirer of his work. Maybe one of my very favourite books is The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, not just for it’s magnificent title story but also for each of the other beautiful vignettes of the other short stories in the book.

    Comment by Stuart | May 12, 2012


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