Bah gum, there's nowt s'funny as folk
Spring and Port Wine
Highbury Theatre Centre, Sutton Coldfield
wisdom is that if you say it in a Northern accent, comedy has a head
start towards being funny. Comedians believe it and so do playwrights.
Bill Naughton backed that belief with this domestic drama which starts
with an uneaten piece of herring and expands from there.
Nevertheless, it is
possible to lay Northernness on with a trowel and this is what Sue
Lynch, playing Mum to her forthright family, does in the early stages,
starting with her walking downstage pulling a funny face. This
encourages the observer to regard much of what follows as something of a
The plot takes a more serious turn after the interval. Stress becomes apparent and she tones things down and enables Daisy Crompton to become rather more easily believable in a little world whose micro-economy thrives on everybody borrowing a pound or two from somebody else every week.
Also playing the humour hard in John Brenan’s
production is Niko Adilypour, as Arthur Gasket. His character even has a
funny surname, though I don’t think I heard it mentioned and I am
relying on how the programme lists him. But yes, this is a pugnacious
performance, Northern to the hilt, though it does use the in-your-face
approach to serious effect eventually.
Arthur is Florence’s young man, Florence being
one of the four children of Rafe and Daisy Crompton – and Florence (Bhupinder
Dhamu) is not swept along on the tide of heavily accentuated delivery.
This is a pleasingly level-headed, undramatic performance – as indeed
are those of the cast’s youngest two members, Hilda (Becky Higgs) and
Wilf (Jamie Williams). Meanwhile, Roddy Lynch is forcefully to the fore
as their older brother, Harold, and Sandra Haynes is intermittently
among the family as the constantly scrounging neighbour.
At the head of the household is Rafe Crompton,
excellently presented by Dan Payne as the well-meaning father who “tries
to do good by force” – the prime example involving daughter Hilda and
her spurned herring. This is a heart-warming account of a good man who
is hiding behind the stern exterior that he keeps with the good of his
family as its object; a man who is a slave to truth and who has no time
for deception until he realises that this is what his attitude has led
his wife into.
This is a play built on the ordinariness of a
family which finds excitement and disruption in what mother Daisy calls
“our ’ilda and the ’erring.” It contains a brief down-to-earth
woman-to-woman discussion of husbands that includes a memorable line:
“Mine’s bad enough, but at least he does have the virtue of being
But I find it hard to believe that Rafe and Daisy
have been married 30 years without her having heard the childhood tale
that he produces late-on. Equally, it is difficult to accept that their
two sons could really take so long to travel the couple of yards
backstage after being remarked on while passing the window before making
their entrance through the door – which, again, is a fault in the
script. They mustn’t arrive before their line!
This is a play based on a storm in a teacup. If it were not for that herring, there would hardly be one, but it does make for an amiable evening. To 20-11-10.