Preview: The Wellspring, MAST Mayflower Studios, Southampton

Preview: The Wellspring, MAST Mayflower Studios, Southampton

by Catherine Collins.

A professor at the University of Southampton, and his son, bring their autobiographical exploration into their own relationship, The Wellspring, to MAST Mayflower Studios from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 May.

Professor David Owen Norris, internationally acclaimed pianist and broadcaster, and award-winning Salisbury playwright, Barney Norris, examine the age-old story of a boy and his dad, and how they relate to one another, in every sense of the word.

The Wellspring, designed by Rosie Elnile, and directed by Jude Christia, takes us inside the complex and shifting dynamic between David and Barney, exploring the people and stories that shape us all – accompanied by their performances of both folk and classical music, and creating a scrapbook style collage of their lives together. 

“The play was the idea of Royal & Derngate,” explains Barney. “James Dacre and his colleagues had read a book of interviews with the same title that I’d done with Dad to try and record his work as a composer, and James asked if he thought it could work as a play. 

“That project was supposed to be its own self-contained record of a creative process, but it’s grown into something else!

The Wellspring is a play about fathers and sons, and a particular father and son who have spent time apart and want to hear each other’s stories,” explains Barney. “It’s also about how we end up in the lives we end up in, and the wild, precarious adventure of deciding to be an artist – something Dad and I both did.” 

David continues: “A lot of our work is interested in multigenerational inheritance and change. Henge Music, the piece we were working on when Barney thought of doing this, was about the passing seasons and the passing generations.

“Music plays as many roles in The Wellspring as it does in all our lives. It triggers memories, shapes our journeys, paints our joy and grief, and brings us laughter, strength and consolation.”

“Many of the props were made by your father, my grandfather,” adds Barney. “I think the storytelling that forms the spine of this show is a curated version of our lives that we share with an audience, thinking we’re projecting one image and of course probably projecting something completely different. The props play a similar role.

“We hope people will feel like they’ve spent an hour in a family, and that might spur them into an engagement with their own family – I always think a good piece of theatre is something that makes me want to call a relative! 

“I’d like the play to bring people together.”

Tickets for The Wellspring (26-28 May) are on sale at or 02380 711811.

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