SPRING AND PORT WINE
by Bill Naughton.
The Mill at Sonning Sonning Eye RG4 6TY To 9 October 2010.
Thu-Sat & 31 Aug 8.15pm (Dinner 6.30pm) Mat Sat & 2, 5, 12, 19, 26 Sept, 3 Oct 2.15pm (Lunch 12.30pm).
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 0118 969 8000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 August.
Two sides of a coin in one household.
It was 1963, spring-time of the sixties, when Bill Naughton’s play appeared. Chaste enough though port wine sounds, added to the season at a factory party it gave Hilda Crompton the will to speak out against her father. For the springtime of the decade hadn’t hit northern towns like Bolton. As Tony Eden’s fifties (or earlier) furnishings make clear, this was still an older world, only Hilda’s dress rebelliously signposting the sixties.
Living in Rafe Crompton’s household must have seemed all too real (to those who knew the type) and impossibly suffocating. It still does. But – and it’s something both Jeffrey Holland’s performance and Sally Hughes’ Sonning production makes clear – Rafe has his point.
Especially when the alternative to his weekly collection of family earnings and totting up of wife Daisy’s household accounts is indigent neighbour Betsy Jane, whose house, we’re told, despite her eternal pinny and rolled headscarf is shabby beside the spick-and-span Cromptons’.
She may not fear her husband, but nor does she respect him, while her grasp of economics is summed up in raising a fiver by selling a new clock she’s just bought on instalments for half as much again. Betsy Jane’s just awaiting credit cards to become a plastic victim, while her economics have a sub-prime logic.
And Rafe is doing his best by his family. A stickler for rules, he’s a trade unionist, his financial precision built on memories of thirties hunger-marchers and dodging in the childhood home the back way to avoid the bailiffs.
Holland rightly holds Rafe’s command in reserve; an instrument to be used as necessary, not gratuitously. He’s cruel only to be kind, and finally shows an unsuspected consideration for others. Yet Judy Buxton’s Daisy has a loyalty that’s suffered unnecessarily, and even the mildest of the younger generation contributes to the threat of a family falling apart.
Holland and Buxton are especially strong in a cast that lacks only the precise sound and natural flow of Lancashire seen in the Octagon’s 2008 revival; though as the Octagon’s in Bolton it is native and to the manner (and manor) born.
Daisy Crompton: Judy Buxton.
Florence Crompton: Kate Middleton.
Betsy Jane: Anita Graham.
Wilfred Crompton: Andy Daniel.
Harold Crompton: Neil Andrew.
Hilda Crompton: Helen Armes.
Rafe Crompton: Jeffrey Holland.
Arthur: Jonathan Niton.
Director: Sally Hughes.
Designer: Tony Eden.
Lighting: Matthew Biss.
Costume: Jane Kidd.