The Wellspring starring Barney Norris and David Owen Norris

Playwright Barney Norris, and his famous pianist and broadcaster father, David Owen Norris, curated their life stories during Covid lockdowns for this – The Wellspring at Oxford Playhouse.

READ ABOUT IT HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/must-see-my-marriage-failed-and-i-was-living-in-my-car-playwright-barney-norris-and-pianist-father-david-owen-norris-in-the-wellspring-at-oxford-playhouse/

The Wellspring. David Owen Norris with Barney Norris. photo by Robert Day

It gives us an account not only of their careers and the “wellspring” of their respective areas of creativity, but perhaps inadvertently, a reflection on the nature of male communication.

“is wellspring perhaps inadvertently a reflection on the nature of male communication?”

The two men, a generation (33 years) apart, tell us their stories in parallel, rarely addressing one another directly. The tone of the play is always respectful, affectionate, thoughtful and reflective, but never addresses the elephant in the room – Barney’s mother, who raised Barney after his parents split up when he was six.

The Wellspring -Barney Norris -photo by Robert Day

However, The Wellspring is a very telling portrait of modern men, the hugely-successful father with polished anecdotes of his successes, the son still searching for some of that success and certainty, wishing, in a very moving moment, for his own offspring to continue this creative journey.

“the music is played with such a light touch, and so informally, that it’s easy to overlook the extraordinary dedication involved in reach this level of ease”

Though the dialogue is rarely profoundly revealing, it is interspersed by Barney’s grandfather’s home videos which provide the backstory to the play and David Owen Norris’ exquisite playing.

This adds to the sense of The Wellspring as being a cabaret of these performers stories, whose lives are most fully lived on stage.

The Wellspring stars David Owen Norris. photo by Robert Day

As for David Owen Norris’ piano playing, it was a master class in the joy of finding your true “voice” early on, illustrated with short interludes from (mostly) very familiar pieces:  Beethoven‘s “Ode to Joy”,  Parry’s “Jerusalem”, Elgar’s “Dream of Gerontius”, Handel’s “Messiah” and much more.

Also a great celebration of David Owen Norris’ own “wellspring” of British music (he is an acknowledged expert on Elgar, the most pastoral of all English composers), the music is played with such a light touch, and so informally, that it’s easy to overlook the extraordinary dedication involved in reach this level of ease. Certainly one of the great highlights of the evening.

SHEILA BAILEY

The Wellspring runs at Oxford Playhouse tonight at 8pm Wednesday March 30. Book at: https://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/events/the-wellspring