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The Wellspring - Royal and Derngate Review

At the heart of The Wellspring, a brand new autobiographical play by Barney and David Owen Norris is the relationship between a father and son and the connecting journey of their lives. 

David Owen Norris and Barney Norris. Photo by Robert Day

It's a warm, cosy and funny 80 minutes listening to Barney and David recall memories from their lives, both intertwining as they go. David's focuses on his journey into music and his early career and how important music has been to his life whilst Barney's feels a little bleaker with his struggles throughout but ultimately that connection between the pair makes the play tick along nicely. 

David's connection with music is made evident throughout as he often sits down at the piano and plays a piece of music that connects to the memories being shared. Music includes extracts from Beethoven's Ode To Joy, Parry's Jerusalem and some of his own work. There's some wonderful singing too, Der Lindenbaum from Schubert's Winterreise is sung with great gusto by David and Barney fantastically sings some folk songs.

Barney's own journey through his life to the present day seems to both be a little melancholic. Even his recent discussion about lockdown where he became homeless and his marriage broke down but his passion for theatre and the arts is clearly his drive, both creatively and passionately. 

David Owen Norris. Photo by Robert Day

The delivery by both David and Barney is terrific. Both are at such ease at opening a window into their past and present selves. I found David particularly engaging with his constantly watchable energy bouncing about the stage. Together they bounce off each other brilliantly as you only can with someone you're so at ease with. The central relationship is key. Moments, where you catch the other watching the person speaking or playing music, make a touching moment. 

Evocative stage design by Rosie Elnile feels like a window into the living room of the pair. The use of a video screen containing home videos that feature Barney as a child that was filmed by David's father/Barney's Grandfather is brilliant for allowing the audience in further and creating a deeper connection. 

The Wellspring is a fantastic exploration of the relationship between father and son, it's a complex relationship that switches between the pair as both go searching for connection and belonging in their own lives and together. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Wellspring continues at Royal and Derngate until Saturday 26th March. Tickets are available from

Barney Norris. Photo by Robert Day

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