The Wellspring – Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Reviewer: James Garrington

Writers: Barney Norris and David Owen Norris

Director: Jude Christian

There’s one thing you can pretty much guarantee from a Made in Northampton production, and that is interest. Over the years they have given us a variety of plays and musicals and this world premiere of The Wellspring is the latest offering, a two-hander written by and starring playwright Barney Norris and acclaimed pianist and presenter David Owen Norris. It’s billed as being an “exploration of their relationship” and taking us “inside the complex and shifting dynamic between this father and son”. So how does it fare?

Considering how much focus there is in the marketing about their relationship, that features remarkably little in the piece. When you take into account the fact that Barney only lived with his father until the age of six, you might think that there was a huge mine of relationship material to explore – but what might have been an emotional rollercoaster ride of laughter and tears, of joys at moments together and regrets of separation, turns out to be two men telling their separate stories via a series of monologues with occasional, sometimes only tangential, touchpoints.

Not that that stops it being an entertaining seventy minutes. The stories they tell are interesting and well-written. David in particular has had a fascinating life and tells his story well, in an engaging and entertaining manner. His delivery is bright und upbeat with a touch of theatricality, and it draws you in to his words. He seems entirely comfortable and at home speaking to an audience. His sections leave you feeling as though you’re watching a good guest on a TV chat show – someone who can be asked a question and will talk and entertain at length in their response.

Barney’s delivery is flatter and less theatrical – but none the less entertaining, such is the quality of the writing. His style makes you feel more like you’re talking to a friend, someone telling you their story in the pub over a drink. David being a pianist, it’s not surprising to find a piano on stage and he entertains us with snippets of music, showing that both men have good singing voices too.

There’s a lot of humour going on here, often at their own expense, and it provides an interesting diversion for an hour or so. It’s never going to set the theatrical world on fire – even on press night the Royal auditorium was half empty – and it will be interesting to see what life the piece has going forwards.

Runs until 26 March and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Short but engaging

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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