I’m writing this too late for you to be able to take my recommendation on board, but I’m also writing about a play first brought to the stage in 1998 and performed in Cardiff and Edinburgh. Rewritten three years later for a touring production with the Sherman Theatre and once again, for 2015, with Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Roger Williams has updated the text again. And so, there’s a possibility, if you’re reading this you’ll remember to buy a ticket when the production is on tour again.Because whilst currency hooks you into the text of ‘Saturday Night Forever’, and updating the text from Saturday nights associated with Blind Date to the now and X-Factor and checking social media chimes with the audience, it is the overall visualisation which creates the magic- of emotion and imagery, taking the audience on this journey, almost as an accompaniment, as a friend rather than a witness to events.
Walking away, reflective, I hoped between 1998 and 2015 so many of themes wouldn’t remain current, but they do. Walking away, having enjoyed so many aspects of the play meant the ones that sunk deeper were more difficult to accept.
Delme Thomas, the actor behind the monologue, demonstrates his strength as an actor, he just engages, and probably with every member of the audience there is a moment when he’s talking to you. Whether that’s as Lee, the story-teller, or Matthew – his extrovert, incompatible boyfriend, or Karl- the teacher from Penarth- an incredible match, there is just a switch which convinces you of each character, and a seamless transference through each. To carry a monologue for 50 minutes is undoubtedly a challenge, Delme Thomas does it with charm and confidence.
Sitting at Chapter Arts Centre, the reality of the story was even more at the fore, with references to crossing the Hayes to TK Maxx, of Revolution, of Cathedral Road and Sophia Gardens…. an immediacy added even more to this story.
And the tale of the story begins as one of familiarity, an incompatible relationship, the strength to walk away but with the accompanying dent in enthusiasm to get ‘back out there’, of taking a risk, and falling in love.
And every bit of this story draws you in, a very clever set design by Zakk Hein, sees the seemingly simplistic lighting panels which form a part of the story, of aspirational room designs, the Incredible Hulk, a nightclub… to a hospital. The accompanying sound track, by Benjamin Talbott and Tix Ashfield, which unconsciously accompanies the story.
For me, as a complete non-singer, it was the karaoke which had me hook, line and sinker. I was absorbed until this point, but here I tipped over the edge. Every bit of emotion was conveyed, some how this deep feeling of love, of seeming forgiveness, was just there. The feeling of happiness. Hook, Line and Sinker- Love.
And this is what the script and the actor does so well, the words used throughout the play are so clever, not only visualising but also of feeling.
Because when the tale takes the inevitable turn, and everything of the laughter and happiness is turned on its head, you are feeling it, the words used create imagery with ease.
And so, of course, (I am a crier), the tears started. And at first, they started with association, I felt pain, I wanted to wrap myself up in cotton wool because the acting, the words, and the imagery, created such a firm reality, and empathy.
But then, the story continued, and suddenly I found myself breaking as a mother, my children may be young, but so much resonated, and so much made the reality of the world I want my children to grow up in seem so much scarier than I’d ever want to imagine.
And so, in some ways I was already broken as the story continued, by that point the writing was already on the wall. But it did raise a spark of optimism as Matthew returned, that there will always be, in spite of, a community which makes us stronger.
But it didn’t make it better.
It didn’t make it better that the words and story should mean so much in 2015 as they did in 1998.
It doesn’t make it any better that I can fear so much for the world which I am raising my children in, but it has never crossed my mind to think that love may be something they should associate with fear.
As a monologue, with an effective script and a talented actor, maybe (she says hopefully) the themes are portrayed stronger than the reality.
But when the reality is the majority of the text creates so much association, there is no reason to doubt the entirety of the play, and that is was you are left with. The highest of highs, created by love, the lowest of lows, existing in a world which needs to change.
And so yes, waffling over, whenever you happen to see ‘Saturday Night Forever’ at your local theatre, take the time out to see it.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are my own.