REVIEW: Half a Sixpence - University Drama Studio

Mark and Helen Holmes
Mark and Helen Holmes
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Half a Sixpence

BASED on HG Wells’ Kipps and written as a vehicle for the song and dance talents of Tommy Steele in 1963, this was hardly a great musical then and time hasn’t caused it to mature into one.

David Heneker’s generally lively music and light-fingered tunes might not pull any trees up but is often characterful, the ‘knees up’ number that is Flash, Bang, Wallop! for instance.

Heneker also wrote his own lyrics, although Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company’s splendid staging in a ‘new version by Warner Brown’ contains nine numbers in which he is the lyricist.

The lively production skilfully directed by Dee Clarkson with Claire Harriott’s choreographed big set pieces coming off extremely well, has occasional ear-cringing moments resulting from over-amplification.

Beyond aural redemption is the amplified piano in a hidden sextet of six musicians, the other five been more or less indiscernible. It sounds like an ill-tuned upright accompanying a silent film.

Never remotely calling to mind the role’s creator, Mark Holmes is a credible Kipps in every respect encompassing the many demands put on him, while an empathy with the spunky performance of Ann by Helen Holmes is explained by the fact they are husband and wife, pictured above.

Mark Harris is a particularly oily Walsingham, Steve Mather a suitably hammy Chitterlow and there are excellent performances from the younger talents of Emma Townend, Gina Townend, Danni Birks, Louise Walker, John Crowther, Josh Holiday and Adam R Walker.

But HHTC needs to do something about its ‘sound design’.

Bernard Lee