Born and bred in London, my mother tongue is slang. Rarely escaping my inner city girl in West Sussex, I’m proud of my roots, homegrown and watered in a Tooting Council Estate. I put the water in Majorca where it oughta be and I always butta my toast. Don’t get me wrong. I know when and where to smarten my lingo up…but I can let things slip.
The beauty of the theatre often reminds you to believe in yourself…it’s the fountain for the underdog to lap up his/her thirst…and that’s why I loved my trip to see Half A Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre, London.
Half A Sixpence was a cute old school musical, brimming and bursting with traditional swag and dabs. As an ever-turning carousel, the stage was dressed as a proper gentleman, crafted to slap down the British history books with theatrical love again. No sex or violence or experimental wackiness, everything was played safe, but tailored to the waist and the choreography was elasticated, stretched and stitched to utter brilliance.
“Arthur Kipps, an orphan and over-worked draper’s assistant at the turn of the last century, unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society. His childhood companion, Ann Pornick, watches with dismay as Arthur is made over in a new image by the beautiful and classy Helen Walsingham. Both young women undoubtedly love Arthur – but which of them should he listen to? With the help of his friends, Arthur learns that if you want to have the chance of living the right life, you need to make the right choices.”
Poor Arthur Kipps (Charlie Stemp) unexpectedly pulled into the social class tug of war, obsessed with his banjo and love drunk on two beautiful ladies, Ann Pornick (Devon-Elise Johnson) and Helen Walsingham (Emma Williams). His cheeky chappy high kicked any sad shade over the death of his family, gleaming through his smiles and bouncing in his quiff curls. He’s dreamy, constantly plucking the strings of comedy relief throughout the musical. As a toe-tapping genius, Kipps’ carefree spirit is infectious. There’s no denying the heart does skip to his whistles and the gleaming star of the show, the banjo.
Just a little touch of happiness, social classes were divided by song and dance. Every scene was a celebration of a jolly knees up, partying with the poor and the rich. Both having different definitions of happiness, providing this comical bickering of misunderstandings. However, Pick Out a Simple Tune is one of the greatest numbers, uniting the classes into a hysterical, fun, moshpit of a tinkering musical box. Mass laughter and applause accompanies the song like a shot of punch. Be warned, no one’s immune if you pick out a simple tune….quite literally!
Chucking fabric and lobbing ribbons across the haberdashery shop, Kipps’ work mates were the driving force. Proud of their friend’s newfound wealth, they were the beloved band of brothers from other mothers, alongside energetic Flo (Bethany Huckle). Ganging up on their perfectionist boss Shalford (John Conroy), the lads – and lass – live by the “work hard, play hard” motto. Carshot (Harry Morrison), Sid (Alex Hope), Pierce (Callum Train) and Buggins (Sam O’Rourke) gave the musical an almighty boost, perfecting fearless dance routines with silliness, excitement and smart ass. Loving the whole cheek of it all, their wealth in humour was simply priceless to watch.
As figureheads on different sides of the coin, Kipps’ golden girls, Ann Pornick (Devon-Elise Johnson) and Helen Walsingham (Emma Williams) gave him a run for his money. Both leading ladies demand attention and put up a fight through allocution and a battle for the sake of upbringing. With intelligence and class, Helen has this beautifully elegant poise with sophistication glowing in every step. Every line is accentuated and words perfectly pronounced. Whilst Ann has an adventurous and rebellious spirit, letting emotion and true meaning guide her fate. Unafraid of money, but snapping Kipps out of pretence, it’s the vital lesson of staying true to yourself.
Mrs Walsingham (Vivien Parry) and James Walsingham (Gerard Carey) are the fantastic, money-sniffing villains. Keeping an eagle eye on Kipps’ investment in money and love, these two take pride in the family name in We’ll Build a Palace and encompass the predictable fate of what happens when you’re a greedy guts.
Backing the right horse, Chitterlow (Ian Batholomew) is a legend, providing Kipps with strength to finding his girl. As a guardian of newfound wealth, Chitterlow pulls back Kipps floating away from responsibility and consequence. Like a father he never had, Kipps seeks Chitterlow’s guidance in The One Who’s Run Away, offering lyrics of wisdom. As a sweet sophisticated response, the gentleman duo offer the musical a new romantic turn of events.
I’m not the one, who’s gonna ruin this good old proper story for you. I’m just making sure this blog post reeks and curtsies my high praise – and, perhaps, encourages you to grab your hat and pay your half a sixpence to see this musical.
Flash, bang, wallop, Half A Sixpence is a triumph and a joy to watch. Possessing the feel good factor and has the potential to be the greatest grandchild ever, this musical delights the young and old. On a theatrical merry-go-around, there’s no pause button to feeling the pinch of your cheeks, burn of your applauding hands or desperately wishing you could whistle as a gesture of praise…instead elegantly holla at the cast as they strum on their banjos. I’m just so pleased I get to stick it in a…theatre blog.
Big thanks to Emily Webb from Raw PR
Book your tickets to see Half a Sixpence here