Half A Sixpence at Kilworth House Theatre – review
The musical is the second of the outdoor theatre season
What is the use in good luck and a good fortune if you are not keeping good company? When young orphan apprentice Arthur Kipps unexpectedly inherits a great sum of money, he soon realises that the most valued currency doesn't jiggle in your pockets – and that coins, in fact, weigh you down.
Kilworth House Theatre is an enchanting find. Sitting modestly in a wooden glade illuminated by sparkling lights that flirt with the reflection of a still lake, the open-air theatre is inviting on a warm summer evening. Here, Nick Winston (Bonnie and Clyde) directs a completely charming production of ''Half A Sixpence''. Transported to Folkestone at the turn of the 20th century, there are frocks, finery and fantastic great high kicks that tell the rags-to-riches tale.
Dominic Sibanda's Arthur Kipps is a delight as he navigates his new fortune, gentleman lifestyle and subsequent love triangle. Starting coy – a little shy, even – he gradually relaxes into the performance and delivers his musical numbers with aplomb. His "Pick Out A Simple Tune" can be likened to the joy of the first lick of a soft serve ice-cream, with the steadily plucked banjo the tang of the raspberry sauce.
In this comedic seaside rendezvous, Sarah Goggin plays a perfectly poised lady Helen Walsingham with doting tenderness. Laura Baldwin plays Ann, a strong-willed but big-hearted local girl earning an honest wage as a chamber maid. Her south coast accent is her roar in defence, but it's a shame we don't see more of her to champion the sweetheart union that the story chases.
Christopher Mundy conducts a hearty orchestra as David Heneker's original music and new additions from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe blend as seamlessly as the sea kissing the sky at dusk. The high-spirited "Money To Burn" acts as a rally call and "If The Rain's Got To Fall" is a gleeful love song that manages to keep the rain at bay till after the interval. Of course, "Flash, Bang, Wallop!" provides a whopping big knees-up.
Winston's stomping choreography is right on the money and performed with energetic ease by a stellar ensemble that fill every inch of the large performance space; even using the aisles as a seafront to promenade. As Flo (a comic superstar in waiting, Tamara Morgan) and Ann yearn for "Just A Little Touch Of Happiness" they race along the white rails of the pier with lightness.
Jason Taylor's lighting gently transitions the outdoor space from evening to dark. Paired with Philip Witcomb set and costume design, the stage is awash with soft Neapolitan strokes washed over with almost dreamlike caws of seagulls and crashing of waves.
Giving a nod and a wink to British humour and archetypes – take Mrs Walshingham (a wonderfully over the top Penelope Woodman), a woman so richly greedy she'd gobble up anything and anyone, in contrast to playful playwright Chitterlow (an instantly loveable Matthew Woodyatt) - H G Wells' novel is as prevalent today with wealth and title separating society, judgement and expectations.
Half A Sixpence is bright and breezy, and will likely have you searching eBay for a banjo.