The title chosen by the Arctic Monkeys for their record-breaking album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was originally a characteristic piece of lip delivered by Arthur Seaton, the bolshie young hero of Alan Sillitoe's 1958 novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning - a bracingly un-romanticised slice of working-class life later made into a gritty film starring Albert Finney.
The band's success and the curiosity generated by the name come as good news (and free publicity) for New Perspectives Theatre Company who are embarking on a tour of the East Midlands with Amanda Whittington's pacy and engaging stage adaptation of Sillitoe's story.
"All I want is a good time. The rest is propaganda." In the film, Finney's Seaton relays such sentiments - redolent of a time of rising affluence in the shadow of the H-Bomb - in voice-over as he operates his lathe in a Nottingham factory. This theatrical version allows Peter McCamley's Arthur to enter into a full cocky conspiracy with the audience. It's a convention that works well enough when our hero is keeping us abreast of his amatory exploits (here, as in the novel, knocking off not just Brenda, but her younger sister, Winnie).
There's a danger, though, of flattening the character into a conventional Jack-the-lad figure, without a sufficient sense of the thoughtful contempt that sets Arthur apart. He knows that the pay packet that enables him to enjoy weekends of boozing, brawling and bedding other men's wives is also the cynical bait that lures him back each Monday to a soulless, repetitive job that is leading nowhere.
Daniel Buckroyd's fluent production is unencumbered by bric-à-brac, with the cast creating swift transitions between the various settings by the rearrangement of a folding screen. Again, there are advantages and disadvantages. It means that the adaptation can pack a lot in - including the episode, from which the film version kept a squeamish distance, where Brenda (Nicky Rafferty) undergoes a gin-bath abortion, and a luridly lit evocation of the night at Nottingham's Goose Fair when a cuckolded husband strikes back. But the upbeat collaborative spirit that the company exudes sometimes seems at odds with what is dour and deadly in the society they are depicting. An enjoyable evening, nonetheless.
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