Half A Sixpence

Date 30th October 2014
Society Sawston Youth Drama
Venue The Marven Centre, Sawston, Cambridge
Type of Production Musical Comedy
Director Mark Long & Gary Bonner
Musical Director Paul Garner
Choreographer Margaret Jacobs


Author: Sue Hartwell

What an absolutely riveting piece of musical theatre SYD's Sawston Theatre Company provided, with their slick first-night performance of this new version of the 1960's musical comedy, centred around the life and fortunes of H.G. Wells' young hero Arthur Kipps, personified by 1960's pop star Tommy Steele.  From the opening scene in Shalford's Drapery Emporium, to the final scene in Kipps' and Ann's parlour, this was a delicious mix of high spirits and emotional moments, brought vividly to life by a well-rehearsed and talented cast.

As Director, Mark Long, with the assistance of Gary Bonner, had avoided the usual pit-fall of long scene-change pauses, by devising a simplified set, with Steve Williams as Technical Director.  This worked extremely well and ensured the pace was up-beat throughout the performance.  The well-disciplined orchestra, under the direction of Paul Garner, provided a nicely balanced accompaniment, with plenty of light and shade provided in the musical numbers, which supported the cast admirably.

And what a cast!.... Adam Bonner excelled as Kipps, the young orphaned apprentice to Mr. Shalford.  This is a hugely demanding role, with some twelve musical numbers to perform and Adam brought vitality and musicality to them all.  He was more than ably supported by Grace Furbank in the role of Ann, Kipps' childhood sweetheart and together they made a thoroughly convincing couple.  Richard Sockett gave a fine performance as Shalford, the overbearing and mean-spirited Victorian shop owner and David Smithet, as the flamboyantly theatrical and extravert Chitterlow, was mesmerising!  Dawn Furbank was suitably snobbish as Mrs. Walsingham, with Samuel Heavens as her son Young Walsingham, who speculates with Kipps' fortune with disastrous results and Samantha Billing, as her daughter Helen, who young Kipps mistakenly falls in love with, thinking he can better himself.

The principals were very well supported by the other cast members, who all added significantly to the performance, both in their individual roles and together with the small ensemble, creating some truly enjoyable scenes, which were never over-crowded, with imaginative choreograpy devised by Margaret Jacobs.  The costumes, without exception, were authentic to the period and visually pleasing.  The delightful contrasts between rousing chorus numbers such as "Money To Burn", "If The Rain's Got To Fall" and the show-stopping "Flash, Bang, Wallop" and the soulful ballads "Too Far Above Me" and "Long Ago", made for a truly memorable performance and one for which Sawston Theatre Company should be heartily congratulated. Well done!