REVIEW: Half A Sixpence ★★★★★ – Noel Coward Theatre

“…a glorious, quintessentially English, dance extravaganza”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

Half A Sixpence is a musical based on the novel by H G Wells entitled ‘Kipps’. This adaptation (the second version of the musical) was written by Julian Fellowes, with music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (retaining some of the original score by David Heneker).

Half A Sixpence follows the story of a young Arthur Kipps who unexpectedly inherits a fortune from his estranged grandfather and is elevated into high society. A love triangle emerges and Arthur must choose between his childhood friend, parlour maid, Ann Pornick, and well-to-do young lady, Helen Walsingham.

Class and wealth are strong themes throughout the musical. Arthur is out of place and uncomfortable amongst the upper classes and keeps making social gaffs, but the rich townspeople of Foxton are still eager to associate with him given his newfound fortune. Arthur is indeed ‘A Proper Gentleman’ but only in theory and, comically, not in practice.

Arthur has grown up with a love of the simple things in life, simple people the same as him and he remains a simple man at heart. He becomes smitten by Helen mainly because she is a lady, however, her attempts to improve his speech and manners are hopeless and ultimately lead to him never feeling comfortable with her.

After this temporary distraction, Arthur’s affections return to his childhood friend, Ann, when she returns the half of sixpence he gave her before he left for work. This brings the musical in a full circle: beginning with Arthur and Ann as promised sweethearts, and ending with their union.

Charlie Stemp (Mamma Mia, Wicked) led the cast as Arthur Kipps and gave a superb performance, particularly with ‘She’s Too Far Above Me’. Devon-Elise Johnson (Mamma Mia, Saturday Night Fever, Spring Awakening) was excellent in the role of Ann Pornick, and Emma Williams (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mrs Henderson Presents, Zorro) gave a classy and elegant performance as Helen.

The cast perform Andrew Wright’s outstanding choreography to perfection, delivering back-to-back, high-energy dance numbers, including, ‘Look Alive’, ‘Pick Out a Simple Tune’, ‘The Joy of the Theatre’ and ‘Flash, Bang, Wallop’.

Half A Sixpence is a glorious, quintessentially English, dance extravaganza, with seamless, on point dance numbers, a lively and upbeat musical score, and a cast of immaculate performers.

Half A Sixpence is booking until 2nd September 2017 at the Noel Coward Theatre when it will close (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Noel Coward Theatre, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Apologia ★★★★★ – Trafalgar Studios

“…darkly witty and intensely gripping, with stark relevance to modern society”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

Apologia is a play by Alexi Kaye Campbell telling the story of the liberal revolutionary firebrand and art historian, Kristin Miller, who has just published her memoir, and as her birthday celebrations with one of her sons, Peter, his fiancée, Trudi, her other son’s girlfriend, Claire, and her old friend, Hugh, and a brief visit by her other son, Simon, take an unexpected turn when cracks begin to appear in the family’s relationships.

The play looks back to the 1960s, a time of change which shook the establishment and foundations all over the world. In the UK, for example, abortion and divorce rights were established, laws around gender and race equality were enacted, homosexual intercourse was decriminalised, and capital punishment and theatre censorship were abolished.   Whilst it was a time of social change and protest, Apologia gives a rare insight into the sacrifices made by the “flower power” protesters and makes a sharp contrast between that generation and later generations’ apparent ignorance of the idea of fighting for something for the greater good.

With Kristin’s lifetime focus being firmly set on changing the world (particularly for women) for generations to come, both her sons have grown up to feel neglected by their career-orientated mother. There is an interesting generational juxtaposition between Kristen and her sons: both sons are focused on themselves in an almost childlike, needy way and on the price they perceive they’ve paid for their unconventional upbringing, without seeming to realise the pain and sacrifice their mother suffered by choosing the path she did; Kristin is equally baffled by young people’s lack of empathy or belief in anything meaningful, in an age where things mean so little and where personal gain seems to be the dominant driver.

Kristin’s firm liberal and humanist beliefs have led to her developing prejudices on principle against certain beliefs, ideologies and groups of people. For example, her never-ending disapproval of Trudi’s American nationality and Christian religion is a source of much comedy throughout the play. This could be perceived as narrow-mindedness and inability to see alternative viewpoints but is more likely a product of fighting so fiercely for something so important and pure. She tells us that Apologia is a formal written defence of one’s opinions or conduct – and quickly emphasises that it is not an apology. Kristin’s character and familial situation perhaps echo that of anyone who is passionately devoted to a cause, and the ending is both touching and heart-breaking when, after a night of quarrels, she realises what she has lost personally through her steadfast pursuit of a better tomorrow for everyone.

Stockard Channing (Grease (film), The West Wing (TV), It’s Only A Play) starred as Kristin Miller and gave a stellar, powerfully commanding performance of Campbell’s smart and sharp dialogue. Desmond Barrit (The Rivals, Before I Leave, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) played Hugh, the wonderfully flamboyant and satirical fellow hippie protester. Freema Adyeman (Doctor Who (TV), Law & Order, Sense8 (TV), Laura Carmichael (Downtown Abbey (TV), The Maids, Uncle Vanya) and Joseph Millson (The Rover, Much Ado About Nothing, Love Never Dies) were excellent in the roles of Claire, Trudi and Peter/Simon.

Soutra Gilmour’s ingenious design of a framed stage mirrors the publishing of Kristin’s memoir, a picture of her work career and achievements, and the simple set gives the production a certain intensity, with no moving parts to distract. Jamie Lloyd’s razor-sharp direction, with added characteristic splash of darkness, is perfectly suited for this sophisticated play.

Apologia is darkly witty and intensely gripping, with stark relevance to modern society. Indeed, this powerful work offers a vast amount of thought-provoking wisdom to anyone who is willing to listen.

Apologia is showing at the Trafalgar Studios until 18th November (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Trafalgar Studios, read our guide.

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