When I heard, earlier this year, that the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester would be staging my favourite Sarah Waters novel (so far, at least – I haven’t read Affinity or The Little Stranger yet), I was delighted. Then I remembered that my mum really liked it, too, so we eventually got round to booking tickets for a Saturday matinee, and planned a daytrip to see it. 

My mum had never been to Manchester before, so I hoped the weather would be nice. It… was not. It poured with rain. Really poured. But we were stoic, and went to see the Cathedral, and so on. We had a great lunch at Dough, and headed off to the theatre. I’d been there before, to see Maxine Peake in Hamlet (a joy to behold), and it is a glorious space with a fascinating history.

We both loved it. It was so cleverly done. If you’re not familiar with it, The Night Watch begins in 1947, and works backwards through 1944 and, 1941, following the stories of Kay, Helen, Viv and Duncan, who are all connected. The book is quite long, but the play was only 2h20, including a 20 minute interval. I was a bit confused at first, but actually it worked really well. I re-read the book right away, and realised that the reason the dialogue had seemed familiar was because a lot of it was lifted right out of the book. Usually this bothers me, but I really liked the effect it had. There was very little by way of a set – the theatre is in the round, and the stage was a circular platform with two rotating sections, which was really cleverly used.

My re-read was delightful. I really, really like this book – WW2 (as we know, this is my jam), lesbians, clever storytelling. It’s great fun, and emotional, and intriguing. I don’t re-read very much these days, but this was worth it.

A marvellous production of a marvellous book. I’m excited for what the RET comes up with next!

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