21 Belvoir Rd
Cheshire GB WA4 6PE
Phone: +44 7725 234022 Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube

Spring and Port Wine

Spring and Port Wine

Mina Anwar and Les Dennis star in Bolton playwright Bill Naughton's beloved 1960s classic as it returns to the Octagon stage.

Rafe Crompton attempts to preside over his family with an iron fist, dispensing order and discipline. However, after an argument with his daughter over dinner and with a backdrop of a rapidly changing society, things fall apart over the course of a weekend as his four children assert their independence.

Will Rafe see that it is his attitude causing his family to break apart? Can love and humour prevail? Join the Cromptons as the family struggle to cope with the ups and downs of life in 1960s working-class Bolton in this touching and funny drama that has delighted Octagon audiences for over 50 years, following its world premiere at the Bolton Hippodrome in 1959.

Photo credits - Pamela Raith

Spring and Port Wine Tickets

Sorry, there are no tickets for Spring and Port Wine in Bolton available at the moment. This maybe due to one of the following reasons:
  • - Spring and Port Wine in Bolton tickets are currently not on sale.
  • - The event has sold out.
  • - Details have not yet been announced for Spring and Port Wine in Bolton.
  • - The event may have been cancelled.
  • - The event has been and gone.
Join our free mailing list for
updates about this event

Spring and Port Wine ON TOUR

Our review on Spring and Port Wine

Spring and Port Wine - The Octagon Theatre, Bolton - Tuesday 7th February 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

Old fashioned, authoritative, harmless but bullish, Rafe Crompton believes in discipline, order and routine.  He goes to work, he comes home, expects his family to be waiting around the dinner table, and collects the wages of family members at the end of the week, handing it over to his wife to manage the household budget.  So when his daughter Hilda refuses to eat the herring that is put in front of her, Rafe is dismayed at what he perceives to be a lack of respect and gratitude, and resolves to serve her nothing else until his will be met.  This battle turns out to be more than a red herring though, as it escalates into Rafe’s brutish nature causing his son to faint under pressure as the offending herring disappears off the table, supposedly taken by the cat, a theory to which Rafe does not subscribe.  This proves to be a catalyst (no pun intended) and his two daughters, unable to contend with his strict regime of rules any longer, move out of the family home.  As his wife Daisy strives to financially help Hilda, balance the housekeeping, and keep track of who she has lent and borrowed money to and from, she learns a thing or two from Mrs. Duckworth, the neighbour who is seemingly always on the take.  All these actions spark a domino effect upon the whole Crompton family, presenting them with, and Rafe in particular, a crossroads moment.  Will their family be forever swimming upstream against the current, or can they learn to tread water, go with the flow, and see where the river takes them? 



Spring And Port Wine uses love, humour, and a little of our famous Northern sass to introduce us to a family struggling to make ends meet and to navigate a generational divide in the ever-changing world they are facing.  Though this play is set in the 1960’s, the poignancy of economic change, hunger, strikes and generational division are ironically and sadly timeless.  There are moments where the situation is so parallel to our current lives that it could have been written yesterday!   Originally written as a radio play in 1957, adapted for the stage in 1959 and turned into a film in 1970, Spring And Port Wine has not only stood the test of time, but enticed theatre goers new and old into fascinating debates and opened up many a much needed conversation.  Due to its universal themes, this play will always find a relevance. 



The theatre is utilised in the round and greets audience members with a visible set upon entry into the auditorium.  Dressed as a 1960’s home, I was pleased to be in my seat with enough time to absorb and take in every detail, for detail there was.  From the squishy foot stool with arms, legs and a head that sparked a memory of me having something similar as a child that had been passed down from my grandparents, to the ‘45’ record player or the specific porcelain collectable ornaments on top of the piano, it could have been a home that my grandparents brought their families up in.  What I particularly loved was that the entrance walks on and off the stage were just as much a part of the set, with one being kitted out as the kitchen with action taking place in it, one was the hall, complete with shoes built into a shoe rack in the wall, and the third, led to the stairs.  Black and white pictures hung from above and we felt like the nosey neighbours peering in through the window of this utterly complex and bonkers, yet completely normal and typical family.



The language and it’s delivery is a key component of this play for it is so colloquial that it has to be right else it would sound fake, false and stilted.  It is not only right, it is so spot on that it takes an effort not to join in what seems like a spontaneous conversation happening right in front of you.  The 1960’s language and references were fascinating too, with money being referred to in shillings, guineas and halfpennies and the flashing of pound notes!  It’s hard to grasp that my mum sat next to me had used this currency as a child for it sounded as made up as a Harry Potter galleon!  Particularly when today we rarely use cash at all and pay for everything with the flick of a card or even a phone!  The cast are so skilled and quick witted that the humour really shone through in a play that can misleadingly sound quite dark and heavy in its synopsis.



Les Dennis (Hairspray, Chicago, Family Fortunes, Coronation Street) plays Rafe Crompton and his performance is an absolute treat.  He captures this complex character effortlessly, taking him on one heck of a turnpike from someone who at first seems nothing more than a jobsworth, old fashioned, grumpy soul, we can have a bit of a giggle at, to someone we can champion for his family values, even if he goes about them in a questionable way.  He is able to delve into Rafes, as of yet, untold story, to make him flip on a knife edge over something as seemingly simple as herring and create a palpable tension in an uncomfortable stand off with his daughter.  And just when you think he has brought this character to his outdated and bitter climax, he surprises us with a heartfelt reflection of his past, revealing why Rafe is the way he is, producing a touching sincerity we never saw coming, and finishes with an almost euphoric lightness that makes you want to chuckle, and not just at his brilliant comic timing that we know and love, but at the hallelujah moment he has convincingly brought to Rafe. Dennis is so beautifully subtle with his performance, that Rafe is someone you feel you know and want to shake some sense into, but at the same time you won’t have anyone but family say a word against him.



Mina Anwar (Shirley Valentine, Life Of Pi, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, The A Word) is jaw-droppingly fantastic as Rafe’s wife Daisy.  Her facial expressions alone deserve a show of their own for she spoke a thousand words with one look, one reaction, and provided so much humour and also emotion in these moments.  Her timing was impeccable, and she not only brought Daisy to life as Rafe’s dutiful wife but didn’t allow her to be so downtrodden and fearful of him that we found it hard to like him later on. Despite Daisy’s scripted submissive nature towards Rafe, Anwar still managed to make Daisy a spirited and strong character whose secrets didn’t seem out of genuine fear but out of a desire to try and balance the generational gap between her husband and her children. 


Gabriel Clark (Hollyoaks, Fright Night, Mixtape) is outstanding as son Wilfred, bringing brilliant new choices to the character and a loveable charm that makes your heart break for him in one scene, and rejoice at his innocence in others.  It is hard to believe that Natalie Blair is making her Professional theatre debut as Hilda for she is entirely at home in this production and brings a wonderful touch of dryness to her humour and to her subtle looks and glances when others are acting around her.  Monica Sagar (Romeo & Juliet, Waterloo Road, Rogue Comet(s) ) portrays her inner turmoil as eldest daughter Florence with ease, perfectly showing the tension between wanting to be independent yet wanting to please her father.  I think this is one of the more difficult characters in the play and handled wrong, can be difficult to like or connect with, but under the directorship of Wakeham, Sagar smashes it out of the part and allows Florence to show her more vulnerable side.  Charlie Ryan (Beryl, Beauty & The Beast, Hollyoaks) is cheeky, fast paced and spirited as Harold.  He has mastered that man child period we all go through where we are too grown up to still be living at home, yet not quite mature enough to handle life by ourselves despite what we think.  His performance is recognisable, humourous and relatable.  Completing this outstanding cast are Adam Fenton (The Solid Life of Sugar Water, Rogue Comet(s) ) as Arthur – Florences’ fiancé, and Isabel Ford (Martha, Gangsta Granny, Nativity 2) as Betsy-Jane – the gossipy and freeloading neighbour.  Fenton and Ford both create memorable characters, Fenton with a cool and laid back nature that contrasts gloriously to the chaotic Crompton family, and Ford with her insanely talented physical, vocal, and slapstick performance, creating some of the funniest moments in the play, particularly when she shimmied right underneath the sideboard and shot out the other side!   



The Bolton Octagon has always been a wonderful and fascinating venue, but since its re-opening after covid, it has produced hit after hit.  They are really making a name for themselves with incredible productions, and this one just reconfirms their knowledge and thirst of local theatre goers.  A play set in Bolton, written by Bolton local Bill Naughton, and starring, amongst others, Bolton born and bred Gabriel Clark, is bound to be a hit for a theatre in Bolton.  Another Octagon show directed by Artistic Director Lotte Wakeham, with a spectacular cast and creative team, Spring And Port Wine just goes to show that The Octagon really have their heads screwed on when it comes to succeeding.  Shortlisted for The Stage Awards as Theatre Of The Year and winning the Unsung Hero award for Front Of House staff with their own ‘Jim’ Whaite, the Octagon is definitely the place to be right now.



This production of Spring And Port Wine is Bolton through and through.  It’s full of Northern actors, it’s set in Bolton, and it’s written by a Boltonian.  It’s a show to sit up and pay attention to and often felt like watching those brilliant Jack and Vera years of our beloved Corrie.  Making use of the Octagons’ fantastic versatile space, Spring And Port Wine is performed in the round, immersing audiences into this complex and chaotic family as if we’d been invited over for dinner.  It’s funny, charming, full of Northern family dynamics, sibling banter, neighbours popping in and out, and has a cracking sense of humour that truly had the audience laughing along in recognition and creasing up at some of the brilliant one liners, all delivered with a mixture of deadpan sass and innocent hilarity.  So put on your best overcoat (if it hasn’t been pawned), BYOB (port wine of course), and settle down with the Crompton’s for the evening.  Just a word of warning – you’d best like herring!




Photo credits - Pamela Raith


rent-box rent-box
Follow Us
Join Our Free Mailing List