Having seen a mixture of shows hitting the stage in recent months, from the eccentric hilarity of Spamalot to the real events of Made in Dagenham, the audience at The Core found themselves treated to a step back in time to the more traditional toe-tapping style of show as Solihull Theatre Company presented David Heneker's Half A Sixpence.
The story, based on H.G Wells' book Kipps, tells the tale of Arthur Kipps, an apprentice draper who comes into a fortune but who does not find happiness in it's wake. Kipps was played with energy and conviction by Chris Johnstone; he was barely off the stage and credit must go to his stamina in delivering the role throughout without missing a beat. His first love interest, Ann Pornick, who he in turn woos, loses, then finally marries after a few of the usual mishaps along the way, was played with sure footed feistiness by Lizzie Stainton. This was her first principal role and she portrayed the character with the assuredness of a more seasoned lead actress. The audience was suitably entertained by their duet Half A Sixpence in particular.
Ann's rival for Kipps's love, Helen Walsingham, was played with authority by Meghan Doheney, another principal debut which was worthy of a more experienced performer. Meghan and Lizzie acted as excellent foils to each other as they both in turn gained the romantic attention of Kipps; the haughtiness of the former balanced well by the down to earth nature of the latter.
There was some delightful chemistry between all the employees in Mr Shalford's Emporium; Sid Pornick (played by James 'O' Grady), Buggins (played by Stuart Harrison) and Pearce (played by Jake Blue Reeve-Yates) were a very tight knit group and delivered some pleasing harmonies in All In The Cause Of Economy. Equally the girls in the shop, Flo Bates (played by Charley Branson), Kate (played by Jo Murphy) Emma (played by Sarah Murphy) and Victoria (played by Hannah Gray) gave sure footed performances throughout.
In every show there is always a role which has the chance to steal the show and Chitterlow, played by Dan Gough, was the whisky swilling burglar on this occasion. His portrayal as the inebriated actor looking for a break who happens to appear in the shop where Kipps works riding a bicycle brought many laughs from the audience, and his duet with Kipps The One Who's Run Away was very assured.
Other roles which supported the principal cast well and which are worthy of a mention include Pauline Dyer's portrayal as the battleaxe mother of Helen, Mrs Walsingham, and Katherine Allen's excellent portrayal of the unbearable Mrs Botting.
The ensemble was well drilled and disciplined under the expert baton of Stephen Perrins; their numbers were energetic with good diction and some superb harmonies. The Old Military Canal'and the well known Flash Bang Wallop particularly stood out.
The costumes and set were fresh and colourful and added to the overall spectacle.
Credit must go to the whole production team of Terry Wheddon (Director), Stephen Perrins (Musical Director) and Pauline Elliker (Choreographer) for a slick and sure footed show.
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