Writer: Bill Naughton
Director: Chris Honer
Reviewer: Donna Kelly
The story of a household living in fear of tyrannical father may seem a little dated in today’s liberated society but Bill Naughton’s subtle comedy Spring and Port Wine feels surprisingly resonant today as it did in 1959.
Set in the Greater Manchester town of Bolton, Spring and Port Wine tells the story of the Crompton family. Rafe Crompton rules his wife Daisy and their four children with a rod of iron but times are changing. The swinging sixties are just around the corner and Rafe’s children are intent on rebellion. It isn’t long before a petty argument at the dinner table quickly turns sour and the family’s everyday life is changed forever over the most trivial of things – a plate of herring.
Funny and affecting, Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s production of Naughton’s classic comedy is an intricate study in family dynamics. While it is easy to dismiss Spring and Port Wine as a play that is no longer relevant, Director Chris Honer is careful to draw out the play’s comparisons with British life today. With many families still struggling to make ends meet and politicians insisting their “economic planning” will see the country right in the end, many of the key themes are still resonant, and plenty of families are sure to identify with the petty arguments between parent and sibling, as well as the alliances, hostilities, love and banter which every family contains.
James Quinn puts in an impressive performance as Rafe, the principled and unbending head of the household. Karen Henthorn is equally strong as his long-suffering wife Daisy who uses all the wiles at her disposal to keep the family together, including fiddling the weekly household accounts when anyone is desperate for money. Elsewhere Lauren Dickenson is delightful as the self-determined Hilda, bouncing about the house like a gazelle, while Isabel Ford is equally entertaining as the nosy neighbour Betsy Jane who takes advantage of Daisy’s good nature.
The first half of the show is slightly pedestrian at times, as the relationships between the family members are fully explored but the action quickly hots up after the interval. Honer has also opted to bring out the comedy of the piece, sometimes at the expense of the drama and tension. That said, the cast do an impressive job of bringing out Naughton’s rich dialogue, skilful plotting and good humour and this affecting domestic drama still has the power to engage and entertain an audience.
Runs until 29 April 2017 | Image: Joel C Fildes