Tag Archives: Robert Day

The Wellspring

The Wellspring

★★★

Royal & Derngate Theatre

The Wellspring

The Wellspring

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 24th March 2022

★★★

 

“a charming vignette of the relationship between a son and his father”

 

The stage of the Theatre Royal is stripped back to its battered rear wall (Designer Rosie Elnile). Within the space stands a trailer full of property – someone is moving house perhaps – tables, chairs, carpet, a music stand. Seemingly abandoned at the front of the stage is a rather strange looking piano. A projection screen (Video Design Megan Lucas) resembles a giant mobile phone. It shows two compasses inscribed with town names: London – Paris – Oxford – Long Buckby. We soon discover the relevance of each of these places for one or other of our two characters.

These characters are father and son, David and Barney. Played by real life father and son, concert pianist David Owen Norris and playwright Barney Norris. And co-authored by them too. It is a curious piece scripted as a play with the subtitle “A Memory Cycle”. It is essentially a series of alternating monologues with some small amount of interaction between the two actor/performer/family members. Jude Christian directs their effortless movement around the stage.

David softly plays the piano whilst Barney talks. Barney (inexplicably) cooks dinner during David’s turn. Home video images from thirty years ago are projected onto the screen, sharing with us a small part of their past lives together. David relates some stories, mere snippets of story really, about how he has reached this point in his career; he seems satisfied with how things have turned out. Barney worries about where his career is heading; he seems anxious of his future. David says of Barney near the end, “You’ve made your story sadder than mine” and we feel that the younger man hasn’t yet found what he is looking for; this collaboration being part of his search for an answer.

There’s an ample amount of humour in the narration. This audience enjoys the references to speaking with a Northamptonshire accent, so rarely heard nowadays, even in Northampton. And there is some pain too: the audience sighs in empathy of David’s experiences in Sydney and at Barney’s bruising street encounter.

The musical interludes that reflect the stories are delightful. David’s doodlings at the keyboard appear effortless: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Elgar, even some pieces of his own. Barney turns the tables and takes his own place on the piano stool for some Schubert. Barney’s soft baritone renditions of both faux and real English folk songs make you realise he has other talents if the script-writing business goes south.

This short performance is a charming vignette of the relationship between a son and his father. Is there anything to be learned from their cycle of memories? “You take the music where you find it” is the most profound reflection to carry away from the evening. Perhaps too, a desire to hear Barney sing in a real folk club and to hear David play on a proper piano.

 

 

Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Robert Day

 


The Wellspring

Royal and Derngate Theatre until 26th March

 

Recently reviewed at this venue:
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | November 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers

★★★★★

Theatre Royal Windsor | UK Tour

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 14th January 2022

★★★★★

 

“Niki Evans returns triumphantly to the lead role”

 

It’s over forty years since Willy Russell penned Blood Brothers as a school play. From that humble beginning, the show grew into one of the most successful musicals of all time with productions in the West End, Broadway and around the world. To this day, it still holds on to third place as one of the longest running musicals in West End history having ran for over 10,000 performances. Since 2019 the show has been travelling around the UK (with a few obstacles along the way ..!) and this opening night performance at the Theatre Royal Windsor marks the start of a further sixteen weeks of touring.

The show revolves around young Liverpool mother, Mrs Johnstone. Deserted by her husband, she becomes a housekeeper for the wealthy Lyons family in order to feed her seven children. She is soon shocked to discover she is pregnant again, this time with twins, and makes a heart-breaking decision that forms the plot of the show.

Niki Evans returns triumphantly to the lead role she last performed over a decade ago in the West End. Her stunning performance throughout shows she has slipped back into the part as if she’d never been away – magnificent vocals (notably in the iconic ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ and the recurring refrain of ‘Marilyn Monroe’) and every inch the embodiment of the troubled Mrs Johnstone. Sean Jones returns as Mickey, in his final ever tour in the role accompanied by Joel Benedict as his twin brother, Eddie. Both actors deliver strong and nuanced characterisations as they play the boys across the years. The story as always is carried along by The Narrator, this time in the capable hands of Robbie Scotcher. Paula Tappenden is a believable, manipulative Mrs Lyons and Carly Burns as Linda (the twins’ childhood friend and Mickey’s wife) gives another standout performance.

Direction (Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright) clearly guides the cast to make the most of the action and Andy Walmsley’s simple yet effective set, which feels perfectly suited to the Theatre Royal’s stage. Sound (Dan Samson) and lighting (Nick Richings) are suitably subtle but effective nonetheless. Musical Director Matt Malone ensures the shows unforgettable songs are delivered to perfection by the top notch band.

As the show draws to a close with the haunting melody of ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ it’s easy to understand why Russell’s masterpiece continues to delight audiences. It’s that rare perfect mix of a show that makes you laugh and cry in exactly the right proportions. This latest tour will not be the last for the Blood Brothers and it’s surely only a matter of time before it makes a well-deserved return to the West End.

 

Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Robert Day (from previous production)

 


Blood Brothers

Theatre Royal Windsor until 29th January then UK Tour continues

 

Recently reviewed at this venue:
The Cherry Orchard | ★★★★ | October 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews