THERE HAS been quite a lot of pungent cooking in the theatre lately and the Saddleworth Players are no different as their up-coming revival of Bill Naughton’s family drama features a plate of herring. Perhaps there should be a new term for this kind of gritty culinary realism – kitchen stink drama.
‘Spring & Port Wine’ is a Northern Comedy set in Bolton. A family play about a family. And a play about relationships between siblings as well as the often stormy but always loving relationship between parents and children.
The nub of Naughton’s play occurs when Hilda, the youngest daughter of the Crompton family, decides she has had enough and turns her nose up at the vapours rising from her plate. Tyrannical father Rafe decrees the offending fillet must be reintroduced at every meal until she eats it.
It sounds like a petty argument, but Naughton amplifies an insignificant tiff into a major point of principle. Not since the British and Icelandic trawler fleets locked horns in the north Atlantic has such a bitter, attritional war been fought over a piece of fish.
Director Rod Fitton places the action in 1965, which heightens the significance of father of the family Rafe’s observation that there is “rebellion in the air”.
In fact, the youth revolt of the 1960s seems to have broken out in his own living room – there is a suggestion that the consequences of sexual liberation may have put Hilda off her food.
Vince Kenney, a Saddleworth Players veteran, plays Rafe, whose otiose pomposity conceals an unexpected tenderness.
Edwina Rigby’s affectingly careworn wife vacillates between loyalty to her unyielding husband and ungrateful children.
Rafe’s four Children: Ester Wheatley’s delightfully self-determined Hilda takes the concept of having a spring in her step to extremes.
John Hoyle and Cameron Kennedy play the two Brothers and Jo Hough returns to the stage after debuting at Saddleworth Players in ‘The Cracked Pot’.
It is a humorous, affecting study of family dynamics with the power to linger long in the memory.
Spring & Port Wine runs from October 1 – 8 at the Millgate Arts Centre in Delph. Book your tickets now online.