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Spring and Port Wine

Bill Naughton

Produced by Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Octagon Theatre

February 3-March 4, 2023; 2hr 30min

Les Dennis (Rafe) and Mina Anwar (Daisy) in Spring and Port Wine at Octagon Theatre Bolton
Les Dennis (Rafe) and Mina Anwar (Daisy). All pics Pamela Raith Photography

Rafe Crompton is a difficult man. It is to him that his grown-up children must hand over their weekly pay packets. It is to him that his long-suffering wife Daisy must account for every penny of the housekeeping money she is allowed.

His impossibly high expectations, his word, his likes and dislikes govern the lives of this working class family and fuel the gossip of his disapproving neighbours.

So when Hilda, the youngest of his children, refuses to eat the mandated Friday tea of fried herring, it leads to an argument - with consequences none of them anticipates.

Spring and Port Wine was written and is set in 1960s Bolton, where author Bill Naughton grew up. Fittingly back "home" in Bolton, at the Octagon, this production maintains its sensitivity, its drama and its humour. It is a play about the tensions that changing times bring between different generations. It is about truth, love and home.

Les Dennis – yes, he of Family Fortunes – takes the lead role and proves his versatility as an actor. He starts with the harshness of a bully, but we gradually see his warmth and, when he finally explains why he is the way he is, much tenderness.

Opposite him is Mina Anwar, who wowed local audiences as Shirley Valentine just before lockdown. As Daisy she is another woman who perhaps should escape, but she stands by her husband, even while recognising his faults. In the second act, when secrets are revealed, Mina Anwar really comes into her own, including demonstrating strong comic timing.

Adding to the comedy is Isabel Ford as scrounging neighbour Betsy-Jane, looking just like Hilda Ogden from the Coronation Street of the period.

Cast members playing the younger generation bring much energy to the play. The fondness, teasing and bickering within families feel very real.

A special mention goes to Natalie Blair as Hilda in her professional theatre debut. As the stroppy teenager of the type we all know and love, she is the catalyst that brings about often painful self awareness and reconciliation.

Director Lotte Wakeham and the Octagon have another success on their hands.

More info and tickets here


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