Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Bah gum, there's nowt s'funny as folk

Spring and Port Wine

Highbury Theatre Centre, Sutton Coldfield


THE perceived 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 caricature. 

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 stupid.” 

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.

John Slim

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