Deep in the woods in South Leicestershire lies one of my favourite theatres in the world, Kilworth House Theatre. Set in gorgeous surroundings, this stunning open air theatre provides a unique theatrical experience that will excite even the most reluctant of theatre goers. Each year the theatre produces two musicals of the highest calibre, gathering the likes of West End Director and Choreographer Nick Winston, seasoned local producer Celia Mackay and a cast filled to the brim with all the talent of the West End. The current musical on offer is Half a Sixpence – a flamboyant retelling of the classic book and film with new music and lyrics by the brilliant duo Stiles and Drewe. Get ready to ‘clap hands and stamp your feet’ this summer as this one is sure to raise your spirits.
When young Arthur Kipps inherits an unexpected fortune he is thrust from his very ordinary life working in Shalford’s haberdashery into the new and unfamiliar world of the gentry. Becoming a proper gentleman seems thrilling at first as he sets his sights on the previously unreachable Miss Walsingham, but Kipps soon realises that he simply doesn’t belong. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and perhaps the things and people he left behind weren’t worth losing. When combined with a euphonious score and witty lyrics this uplifting story feels like a breath of fresh air. It might be a classic, but there’s nothing old fashioned or stale about this production.
Nick Winston certainly got that memo; his dynamic and high energy choreography completely blew me away. In a musical packed to the brim with so many big production numbers it could be easy to let a few fall flat but that definitely isn’t the case here. Every number is a joyous feast for the eyes; its impossible to know where to look to take it all in. The stellar ensemble cast perform every piece with impressive precision and enthusiasm, filling every corner or the stage with an infectious energy – it’s impossible not to smile.
The role of Arthur Kipps has to be one of the best on offer for up-and-coming male performers and Dominic Sibanda doesn’t disappoint. He’s a complete joy to watch in this role as he leads the cast with poise, grace and spring-loaded legs. His vulnerable yet charming portrayal of Kipps makes the audience root for him vehemently and his presence consistently lights up the stage. Another stand out was Tamara Morgan who was hilarious and endearing as best friend Flo and special mentions must go to Ruairidh McDonald as loveable Buggins, Penelope Woodman as a pompous and over the top Mrs Walsingham and comics Billy Mahoney and Kevin Brewis.
Philip Witcomb’s set design is simple but effective, combining a basic but attractive backdrop with a few moving pieces to vary the setting. His costume design on the other hand is exquisite. The staging as a whole really comes to life in act 2 when the sun sets and Jason Taylor’s lighting works beautifully to add an extra dimension to the piece – the magic of lighting is never to be underestimated. In terms of direction Winston uses all the aspects of this unique space well, keeping the audience on their toes with varying entrances and interesting use of levels. Having said that, some of the interludes felt a little slow and clunky to me which disrupted the flow of the production at times, more notably in act 1. As the cast settle in over the next few days though, I imagine these niggles in the production will only improve.
Kilworth House Theatre’s production of Half a Sixpence is a feast for the eyes. With energy and enthusiasm by the gallon, this stellar cast won’t fail to make you smile and leave you wanting more. Its engaging, uplifting and great fun. To top it all off, its in one of the most beautiful theatres in the country – you can’t go wrong really. What a Triumph!
Half a Sixpence is playing at Kilworth House Theatre until 28th August 2022. For tickets and more information click here.
*Production Images by Fox Photography
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