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Half A Sixpence - Noel Coward Theatre

Published by: Douglas McFarlane on 18th Nov 2016 | View all blogs by Douglas McFarlane

Half A Sixpence

 

This one was always going to be a different review for me. It was my very first performance on stage. I had auditioned for the part of Arthur Kipps with Theatre Guild in Glasgow, after a few years of training. Aim for the stars and land on the clouds was my policy. The role was given to the editor of this website, Cameron Lowe, and I was delighted to get the role of one of his 3 mates, Pearce. Cameron played opposite his wife Suzie, and they were the perfect Kipps and Ann as they had the connection needed to show that clearly Kipps was in love with the young Ann from childhood. This was important as my review will cover.

On arriving to pick up my press night tickets, I bumped into Sir Cliff Richard, as you do. "Good evening, Sir Cliff", I said and he smiled and said hello back before going to look for a pre-theatre restaurant. It was going to be one of those nights with celebrities attending it seemed. Gloria Hunniford arrived in a chauffeur driven car, "Good evening, Gloria", I felt that I was celebrity stalking and all I was doing was picking up my tickets. The photographer on hand was snapping away and mentioned that there were many more expected tonight. I popped into Brown's next door for a lobster and a glass of champagne.  This was a special night, so I was all out, and returned to the theatre bar for further champagne, picked up the Half A Sixpence soundtrack, and headed early to my seat.

Curtain up and Kipps and Ann are on a sparce stage as teenagers and having a bit of fun.  Not a great start. They were supposed to be childhood sweethearts and this Kipps, played by relative newcomer Charlie Stemp, didn't care much. Sure, he shuffled up to her, but it wasn't natural and didn't get across that shy, timidity of teenage friends secretly being in love. It was such an important opening scene and they'd ruined it for me and it was to prove critical for the overall enjoyment of not just myself, but I'm sure much of the audience. Ok, maybe that's a bit over dramatic, but a fellow reviewer sitting next to me had noticed this too.

You see, the story as it goes, is that Kipps is a poor boy who inherits some money, only to find the girl of his dreams when he's older, Miss Walshingham, superbly played by Emma Williams, is too posh and he is drawn back to his childhood sweatheart when she appears back on the scene as an employee of the wealthy family. He's supposed to be torn between the two lives. Money and posh girl. No money and poor girl.  However, as an audience we don't care. We actually like this Miss Walshingam, she seems to have her head screwed on and feet firmly on the ground. She's not a nasty posh, it's her mother's upwardly mobile aspirations at any cost is what we don't like. So as an audience, we're not as sad as we perhaps should be when Ann played by Devon-Elise Johnson beautifully sings her solo leaving only a small hint of tear from me at the end of the first act.

On the whole I felt that Charlie Stemp's Kipps, isn't as cheeky chappie as I'd have preferred. The style of Tommy Steele's original singing was heartfelt, warming and Stemp seems to have lost all of that.  Additionally, his vocals seems to take a dip at the end of some lines, for no known reason, when those were key notes which could've shown the quality of his voice. He did dance around stage and jump from high places to show his agility and did an admiral acting job, but for me he needs to go much further with this role to really bring the house down.  There's some real emotion that is missing from this version of this wonderful musical as a result.

Having said all that, what it lacks in emotion in makes up for in laughter. The scene with the new song "Pick Out A Simple Tune" had the audience roaring with enjoyment, and as the crescendo of the musical reaches towards it's final scene of "Flash Bang Wallop", the audience were on their feet and gave the mightiest of roars as it came to it's conclusion. Everyone, including me, were on their feet. Both of these two main scenes were made more interesting by Gerard Carey, who plays James Walsingham with his maniacal piano playing and hanging from the chandelier in "Pick Out A Simple Tune" and the camp funny Photographer in "Flash Bang Wallop".


Half-A-Sixpence is on at the Noel Coward Theatre and is currently booking until end-February 2017. http://www.halfasixpence.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

Comments

2 Comments

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    thanks, Doug. I think the shows closest to out hearts are always the hardest to review! You've given some lovely insights here. Cracking piece (and quite flattering for me!!).
  • Elaine Pinkus
    by Elaine Pinkus 1 year ago
    Ah, memories of Tommy Steele. Funny thing is that a few months ago somebody asked me what play I would bring back and I suggested Half A Sixpence. At some point I would like to see it - lucky you, Doug.
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