Half a Sixpence


Wootton Bassett Light Operatic Society, Memorial Hall, Royal Wootton Bassett

Saturday 28th April 2012

Director: Mark Harper; Choreogrpahers: Kim Pethybridge; Musical Director: Chloe Keen


Graeme Savage reports –

 It is a brave company which attempts Half a Sixpence, despite its reputation as a good old-fashioned musical, as regardless of the amount of work expended in all departments, it really will stand or fall on the central performance of Artie, especially in this new version in which he barely leaves the stage. Fortunately, in Rob Hall, Wootton Bassett LOS have found themselves something of a star! Charming, cheeky and in good voice, but also convincing in the darker moments in Act Two, Rob’s performance was a joy to watch throughout the evening.

 He was by no means the only highlight – clearly buoyed by a full house, and at the end of a successful week, Saturday night’s performance still had bundles of energy, the humour was well-paced and the stage was filled with a company working hard for each other and enjoying themselves without becoming self-indulgent. The Memorial Hall stage isn’t the biggest, but Mark Harper’s efficient direction ensured that the stage never felt cluttered, and along with Kim Pethybridge’s simple but well-suited choreography, ensured that the story was well communicated. This was particularly apparent in scenes like the cricket match and Flash Bang Wallop, which were busy and full of energy, without feeling awkward. The use of the exits and entrances from the front of the stage also helped to keep the show moving along and avoid the bottlenecks in the wings that can so often occur on these size stages.

 The set was a mixture of minimalist set-pieces and some nicely painted backdrops, which felt in keeping with the story-telling aspect of Artie’s journey, and the scene changes were slickly performed. The lighting was very subtle, with some nice use of colour, and avoiding too many of the full stage washes which can make the Memorial Hall audience feel as though the house lights are still up (which has sometimes been the case during pantomimes). All of this kept the audiences focus firmly on the stage and Artie’s journey. The costumes were excellent, with only a few slightly out-of-period pieces (the modern logo on Artie’s cricket trousers, for example)

 All of the principal actors performed well, with good singing voices, clear diction and lots of character, but special mention must go to Dee Austin as Ann, for her lovely chemistry with Artie, and the (almost) show-stealing Simon Roberts as Chitterlow. The group scenes with the shop boys and girls, and later with the students and the aristocrats were neatly staged, with all the minor characters still showing some individuality without upstaging the rest of the cast. All of this was complimented by Chloe Keen’s small but well balanced orchestra, which suited the size of the venue and the feel of the show perfectly.

 A thank you as well to your very efficient Front of House team, for being so welcoming and having to cope with a full house and queues out of the door!

Well done to you all for a great evening, and for what has been a clearly successful week, and I look forward to meeting more of you at your future productions

 Graeme Savage

NODA SW Regional Representative

District 14

Mark Harper directed the new version of Half a Sixpence, with extra songs and slightly different settings but the same cast of characters. Kim Pethybridge was Assistant Director.

Kipps – Rob Hall
Ann – Dee Austin
Chitterlow – Simon Roberts
Shalford – Ken BrownThe Walsinghams
Young Walsingham – Richard Large
Mrs Walsingham – Margaret Oakley
Helen Walsingham – Louise Van Der Watt
Shop Girls
Kate – Jen Fisher
Victoria – Suzanne Russell
Flo – Michelle CooperShop Boys
Sid – Mike Davies
Pearce – Paul Dawkins
Buggins – Ben Robinson

A musical based on the novel “Kipps” by H G Wells
Music and Lyrics by DAVID HENEKER
New Version by WARNER BROWN

by arrangement with Warner/Chappell Music Ltd administered by Boosey & Hawkes.

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