site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Mortimer Dramatic Society - Spring and Port Wine

4th, 5th, 11th and 12th May 2001.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Director's debut with classy vintage

'Spring and Port Wine', performed by Mortimer Dramatic Society, at St John’s Hall, Mortimer on Friday May 4th, Saturday May 5th, Friday May 11th and Saturday May 12th

Bill Naughton’s comedy about a Lancashire family is set in the sixties, with the inflexible bully of a father keeping the rest of the family under his thumb. His attitudes are rooted several decades earlier, but the rest of the family are starting to rebel.

From the start, it was clear that this was going to be a high-class production. Ray Tomasi’s set was stunning, showing the family living room, complete with piano, and the lean-to porch outside. The casting was perfect, with strong performances from all the actors, and the pace was good in the first act.

The key part is that of Rafe Crompton, the head of the family, and Tom Shorrock gave an excellent performance as the domineering patriarch, but with his gentler side coming out towards the end. Shelley Worboys was his long-suffering but loyal wife, showing occasional moments of rebellion.

Part of the reason the play worked so well was the way that the very different characters of the four children were brought out. Michael Picking was very impressive as Harold, who fancied himself as a bit of a lad, but was afraid to face up to his father. Jane Hodgson gave a sensitive performance as the elder daughter Florence, Steve Hannan did well as the rather dopey Wilfred, and Helen Sharpe once again showed how well she copes with a range of emotions as the younger daughter Hilda. In the other parts, Darryl Manners, as Florence’s fiancé, showed the difficulties encountered by an outsider faced with the close-knit Crompton family, and Sarah Heaven gave a lovely comic performance as the neighbour, complete with headscarf and fag.

Act I was brilliant, but in Act II things started to fall apart, for one reason only: prompts. When actors need prompting, it’s incredibly unsettling for us in the audience. We dread the pauses – is it a real pause, or has he forgotten his words again? Our concentration goes, we lose the plot, and the pace of the production falls away.

Despite this problem, congratulations to Tom Shorrock, directing for the first time, as well as acting, for a really impressive production.