I’ve left theatres in all sorts of states from elation to depression, anger to jubilation, in tears and totally numb. I left
Merely a straightforward story with some humour and vivid imagery that has been salvaged from the archive of theatre history
The set makes it look promising. A curve of vertical, illuminated wall bars extends across the stage, glittering and sparkling. They hold the promise of dramatic mood changes and flashing discos. For the most part they don’t disappoint and even change to the right shade of deep yellow at the mention of Grindr.
Next, the simple gay narrative unfolds. Lee is going out with Matt. Matt loves his Saturday nights out dancing. Lee was born with two left feet and feels inadequate. They break up. After a period in hibernation Lee is invited to a friend’s housewarming party where he meets Carl and falls in love. That is not the denouement, but if you draw up a list of maybe three possible endings one of them will almost certainly be right.
The play, by Roger Williams, dates from 1998. It has been revised and updated on several occasions since then. At the time, it was regarded by some as cutting edge, though Victoria Cooper’s description of it as “Brecht in the twenty-first century” even then was surely a severe case of hyperbole. Saturday Night Forever is now merely a straightforward story with some humour and vivid imagery that has been salvaged from the archive of theatre history.
Delme Thomas as narrator Lee does his very best to rescue the script. He has certain advantages from the outset. He is tall, slim, good looking, has an endearing Welsh accent, a great smile and manages to turn a good tune when forced into performing at a karaoke night. His delivery is clear and has pace. Bravely not moving from his centre-stage location until the very last moment, he holds his ground relating details of the story with humour, enthusiasm and pathos as required. He incrementally builds up to a moving, if predictable, climax.
Ultimately, however, Delme Thomas is much better than the material he has been given. Overall it’s pleasant show, but unlike Saturday night the play itself is unlikely to run forever.