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Half A Sixpence

June 2018 saw Three Spires Guildhall take to the Albany Theatre in Coventry to stage their rendition of Half A Sixpence. Under the direction of Jamie Sheerman and after the success of his debut with the company, ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’, there was high expectation for them to deliver and despite several hurdles they faced, they didn’t disappoint.

The show tells the story of Arthur Kipps, an apprentice draper in early 20th century Britain who unexpectedly comes into fortune and is raised from the working class to a member of the gentry overnight. As the story-line progresses, we see the struggles he faces, the fortune he loses (through the fault of one his fellow ‘gentlemen’!) and eventually the happiness he gains.

Technically, the show was well thought out; things such as set pieces, lighting designs and costumes all added to the authenticity and natural environment of the story-line. The band, under the direction of Richard Taggart was suitably grand and atmospheric, though perhaps a little loud at points which meant the audience lost the odd line or two.

Creatively, the cast and team behind them were outstanding and their ability shone through in each group and individual performance. The first Act, though perhaps off to a slow start, saw some excellent performances from the leads and both adult and junior ensemble members alike. Clive Cartwright gave a stellar performance as the stoic and at times rather unlikable shop owner, Mr Shalford. Luke Bingham, Jacob Scullion and Nathan Lloyd played Arthur’s fellow drapers, they added much needed energy, playfulness and charisma to each of their roles. A special mention must go to Nathan Lloyd who stepped up to play the role of ‘Sid’ only two weeks prior to opening night! Their female counterparts played by Katie O’Beirne, Lucy Owen and Rachel Fisher stood out during the entire performance with their poise and harmonic ability. The two ‘love interests’, Helen Walsingham and Ann portrayed by Kelsey Checklin and Zsofia Preddle respectively were equally enchanting and provided beautiful singing throughout.

The second Act seemed to bring much more energy to the stage and captivated the audience from the off. One of the most memorable chorus numbers was ‘Building A Mansion’ which perfectly displayed the talents and hard work of the company as a whole as well as shining moments from the leading man. However, the highlight undoubtedly came in ‘What A Picture’, this song saw Casey McKernan move from his previous ‘stiff’ (though still well played!) character of William Walsingham to an outrageously camp, energetic and brilliant photographer in a pink jacket and a blonde wig! The contrast between the two was one of the most sensational elements of the whole show and the entire audience was enthralled by his performance. The number also demonstrated some excellent harmonic work from the entire company and was just one example of the incredibly inventive and effective choreography put together by Julie Howard.

The highest accolade of the night, however, has to go to the lead man himself, Ian Meikle. Not many were aware but Ian was a latecomer to this lead role, in fact he only stepped in two weeks before opening night! The show was set and fully rehearsed until disaster struck when the original lead fell victim to injury; the company had two choices, pull the show or find someone to step up, and step up he did. Ian tirelessly worked for two weeks to perfect the role, with the cast and crew working equally hard with him to still provide the best performance they possibly could and to say all of their hard work paid off is an understatement; the fact that if you didn’t know Ian had been rehearsing this role for only two weeks, you never would’ve guessed says it all. His performance was outstanding on all three fronts and a real credit to his theatrical ability.

All in all, this show was thoroughly enjoyable and a true example of what it means to revive an older, ‘classic’ musical that would otherwise become lost to time. Review by Lee Holt and Luke McDonald, Pulse Productions

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