This one-hour, one-man play is a lesson in crisp, authentic writing that requires an actor with the skill and, to be hones, looks and charm, to carry it off. Directed by Kate Wasserberg, Roger Williams’ script is in very safe hands in the hands of Delme Thomas who has us locked into the story as soon as he starts to speak. There is just the right amount of “spontaneous” asides to the audience while delivering the superbly naturalistic monologue.
It would be wrong to spoil the experience by recounting the last part of this story of a young man looking for a soul mate who shares a dislike for the vapid and seemingly shallow, glitter ball, gay club-based world. I say seemingly shallow as the ending, without giving anything away, throws a gesture of depth to the land of the disco bunny.
The set is created by using mobile strip lights (think of tall versions of those tall, upright bathroom radiator towel rails) that light up to create disco lights, explosions of fireworks, the yellow of a Grindr message, and the bleakness of no light. Within this simple buy effective staging Thomas takes us to his shared flat, the club, a workmate’s party, Cardiff streets, a nighttime park and hospital.
For the Cardiff audience having the play set in the city with plenty of descriptions of walking along well-known streets (some just the corner from Chapter), going to certain bars and clubs and parks must add a certain extra dimension but I don’t doubt this show will resonate with audiences whether it is played. Similarly, I am certain this will not only resonate with gay people. Anyone who cares about relationships, cultural and social differences, pressures to confirm tot he norm (whatever that may be) and the quest for love will identify with the writing.
The play was originally written when the last millennium was fizzling out and it did feel like it had been set in an even early and darker time, despite updating of references to current culture, when it was more physically dangerous to be gay or perhaps that is just wishful thinking.
I did not find the play as moving as I am sure I was supposed to as there is no inhibitions from the writer in playing to our emotions. Rather, I found the graphic description of being attacked by a Stanley Knife wielding gang the most effective and disturbing writing and acting of the evening. That is no detraction from Thomas’ utterly convincing portrayal of the central character Lee as his acting ran the gammit of emotions from happiness, frustration, loneliness, bliss, longing, hope and despair in less than an hour.
The most enjoyable parts of the work are the early episodes when Lee talks (and portrays) his partner Matthew and those weekends that are dominated by the ritual of getting ready to go clubbing and what it is like in a mainstream gay venue on a Saturday night.
By the way, as I share Lee’s aversion to Gary Barlow, I had to guess the karaoke song was from the Take That! boy band. A nice touch.
Read Roger Williams on writing Saturday Night Forever: http://www.asiw.co.uk/my-own-words/saturday-night-forever-roger-williams
Read Steve Stratford review from Theatr Clwyd: http://www.asiw.co.uk/reviews/saturday-night-forever-theatr-clwyd
An Aberystwyth Arts Centre & Joio production
Photography: Keith Morris