THE play Spring and Port Wine which opened at Ilkley Playhouse this week is one of those which invites a certain voyeurism: the audience is invited into the living room of the Crompton family and from our privileged position we witness the dramas that unfold. This is ‘slice of life’ theatre – a perfectly ordinary family, with all the anxieties and upsets, joys and jokes of a typical weekend.

Money is a theme which dominates the play. The lack of it, the need for it, robbing Peter to pay Paul, lending, borrowing and fretting and it is this which causes most of the disharmony around the tea table

This is a close knit family of six – four children whose unifying bond is their mutual fear of their father. Rafe Crompton, played with true Lancastrian determination by Colin Waterman, is a controlling bully, who can’t countenance any of his children, or his wife having opinions of their own.

In their individual ways, the family try to make their stands against the oppression under which they live. Sarah Potter, playing the fretful wife - Daisy, tries tirelessly to make ends meet without letting her husband know how she has lent and borrowed. Her sons, Wilfred and Harold, played by Tom Jordan and Jonathan Kennedy are a great double act as the ‘bravado brothers’, who make boasts to defy their father’s authority but never quite dare to carry out their threats. Becky Kordowicz, as Florence, the elder sister seems the most compliant, perhaps because she’s got her escape well planned with her boyfriend Arthur, Patrick Hebbert. So it is left to the youngest and ‘favourite’ child Hilda,( Felicity Woodhouse) to really make waves in the family. Refusing to eat the tea time fish causes more trouble than anyone could have anticipated, but maybe this masks a rather more alarming concern. As the play moves on there are shifts in familial loyalties and finally a revelation which promises to make a great sea change at last.

There are characters in this play which are now much less familiar – the patriarch who is all controlling, the little wife at home who rushes about to satisfy so selflessly the needs of all her family, the daughter who needs her father’s permission to marry. As a piece of social commentary on the 1960s it is interesting to be reminded of how things have changed, whilst at the same time recognising so easily all the same issues and relationships.

Jacquie Howard directing, has drawn out super performances from this talented cast and ensured that the story is told with great clarity and compassion. The scene between Rafe and Daisy, when at last there is some explanation of the relationship is deeply touching and affecting and it is a delight to see the characters reconnect and renew. Felicity Woodhouse too, as Hilda, draws great sympathy as she struggles to cope with overbearing father, whilst Patrick Hebbert, (Arthur) makes the audience (inwardly) cheer when he shows the courage to stand up to the domineering Dad.

For many this will be an opportunity to reminisce about a by-gone age and for others it will be a chance to examine attitudes which are slowly being forgotten. And the cliff hanger at the end makes you want to beg for just one for scene! It runs until the March 16.

by Becky Carter