Written by David Brett from novel by Alan Sillitoe

Directed by Frank Dunlop

Ian McKellen in the role of Arthur Seaton

Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham

15 April 1964 - 4 July 1964


Words from Ian McKellen

An adaptation from Alan Sillitoe's Nottingham novel, recently filmed with Albert Finney as Arthur Seaton. I visited Mrs Sillitoe in her back-to-back terraced house, where Alan had been brought up. I still haven't seen the movie.

Arthur Seaton was an engaging lout, anti-everything except his own gratification with women, drink and boisterous pleasure. I couldn't have been less like him but I ran with the part. The sets were large and evocative of the city that the audience and actors lived in. A popular hit, which came to London briefly when I was busy with other work.

Comments and Reviews

"Ian McKellen is an actor of immense promise and considerable present achievement. To begin with he was a lean and hungry Arthur Seaton, a working class kid earning real money for the first time and finding not contentment but a new power to exceed those about him and challenge those over him. As sexual success came in the shape of Brenda and Winnie, McKellen almost appeared to take on flash and confidence. He has a tendency to step out of part occasionally and chuck a mot to the section of the house he thinks will most enjoy it. But his Arthur is bang up to date and he is very much an actor to be watched." Financial Times April 1964.

"In its Arthur (Ian McKellen) the production had a real find: not hesitating to borrow from Finney's film characterisation (the carnivorous gasps of laughter, the sudden blue stares), he created a young beast completely alive, full-throated and dominating. If anything, the abortion scene, steamy and macabre, and the beating-up at Goose Fair outdid the film. The Nottingham audience, sprinkled with Mod hair-dos and jackets, loved it clamorously." — Ronald Bryden, The Statesman 20 May 1964


Banner photo: Final soliloquy, Arthur fishing in the canal off the front of the Nottingham stage


Full Cast List