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Spring and Port Wine

Although billed as a comedy, Bill Naughton’s classic Spring and Port Wine is a work of definite dramatic undertones, poignancy and moral standings, albeit interspersed with some highly amusing and at times, very funny lines.

Set in the late 1960’s, the plot highlights the wind of change that swept across society during the era, leaving a sense of rebellion and freedom in its wake that was to alter family values forever. None more so than for Rafe Crompton, his long-suffering wife Daisy and their four grown up children.

Having watched his own mother endure hardship and humiliation as a result of his father’s actions, Rafe, a self-made man contrives never to put his own family in the same situation. His determination to succeed in his quest is admirable but while the depth of his love for those closest to him remains unstinting, his somewhat strict and draconian methods in achieving his goals bring an almost intolerable pressure to bear, practically destroying that which he strives to protect before a new level of understanding is reached, reuniting parents and offspring in an atmosphere of hope and trust.

Leading the cast as the tyrannical Rafe, Jeffrey cuts an imposing figure of immense presence. His totally absorbing and emotionally charged portrayal perfectly reflects the integrity and pride befitting a Lancashire man whose God-fearing ways lead him to rule with a rod of iron, where truth, honesty and thrift are the ever present watchwords. In what can only be described as an immaculate performance, his unexpected injection of empathy and emotion in the final scene, linking to some beautifully timed moments of comedy, are both heart warming and uplifting.

Judy Buxton as Daisy, the kind hearted and eager to please wife and mother, gives an unfaltering, first-rate performance in her bid to balance the books and prove herself as the perfect partner. She is at her utmost best as tensions rise and she is finally driven to distraction breaking down in fear and close to hysterics as she awaits the outcome of her husband’s reactions to her failings.

Anita Graham as the nosey and always ‘on the cadge’ next door neighbour provides much of the humour for the audience and many of the trials and tribulations for the ever willing Daisy, as she constantly borrows from her friend in order to rob Peter to pay Paul as it were. A performance of expert timing and a master class of deadpan delivery.

Neil Andrew and Andy Daniel prove to be the perfect foils for each other as the two brothers Harold and Wilfred, even incorporating a clever juggling sequence as part of a scene change. Giving equally fine and contrasting performances are Kate Middleton as elder sister Florence and Helen Armes as the baby of the family who is at the root cause of most of the disruption. Completing the cast is Jonathan Niton as Florence’s fiancé Arthur whom despite having a minor role by comparison, proves no less impressive in his portrayal.

A brilliantly designed and constructed set does much to capture and enhance the atmosphere of the period while Sally Hughes’ direction obviously brings out the best from the actors.

Staged at The Mill at Sonning, this is a production to savour, appreciated by a highly enthusiastic and discerning audience.

Photos © Norman Moulseley