Kipps: The New Half A Sixpence Musical

Arthur Kipps, an orphan, is an over-worked draper’s assistant at Shalford’s Bazaar, Folkestone, at the turn of the last century. He is a charming but ordinary young man who along with his fellow apprentices dreams of a better and more fulfilling world. One of his friends, Sid Pornick, has a strong sense that socialism has a lot to offer the working man seeking fairer access to life opportunities, a theme which is reinforced throughout the story. A chance meeting with Mr Chitterlow, a burgeoning playwright, leads Kipps to find he has unexpectedly inherited a fortune! This propels him into high society and confuses everything he thought he knew about life.

Watching from a distance, as Arthur wrestles with his new identity is his childhood friend (and Sid’s sister), Ann Pornick, who sees with dismay how he is being made over in a new image by the money-grabbing Mrs Walsingham and her son James. Mrs Walsingham’s daughter, Helen is trying to escape the bounds of her conventional upper-class existence, and recognises Arthur’s decency ‘despite’ his working class credentials. She is always there with well-meant helpful hints on how Arthur could improve himself and make his life richer and more meaningful, if only he would believe in himself. Sadly, she becomes implicated in her family’s somewhat less honourable plans when Arthur proposes and she agrees to marry him.

A chance meeting with Anne rekindles happy memories for Kipps of simpler times, and causes him to reflect, somewhat critically, on the life he is now trying to fit into. Both Helen and Anne love Arthur – there is no doubt about that – but which should he listen to? With the help of his friends, Arthur learns that if you want to have the chance of living the right life you need to make the right choices.

What is good about this new version of Half A Sixpence?

This new stage version of Half A Sixpence returns to the H. G. Wells semi-autobiographical novel, “Kipps”, in order to refresh the story for a contemporary audience. It delivers the classic, romantic storyline with an appropriately upbeat happy ending, but crucially allows for the three key younger female characters to show more agency than is often possible in ‘traditional’ versions of the show. In fact, Kipps offers more opportunities for the entire company of singers, dancers and movers (who don’t all need to be in the first flush of youth), without losing the classic big numbers. For example, Flash Bang Wallop, which in the new version makes an excellent finale. There is plenty of lively, almost slapstick, comedy, and some great larger-than-life characters for all on stage to portray, including working class ‘salt of the earth’ types and the extremely privileged ‘poshies’. It is important to note that this story is set at a time when the many class-based social conventions which restricted the economic independence of the many for the benefit of the few were being directly and fundamentally challenged, and when women of all classes were beginning the fight for greater freedom and representation. I am hoping that in small but significant ways, we can highlight and celebrate these themes. We will also be looking to highlight the social aspect of the historical context through set design / programme design.

With its seaside location, Kipps the New Half A Sixpence Musical is perfect for the venue: we will have a ‘Promenade’ across the back of the stage, overlooking the sea and suitably festooned, which will look particularly lovely in Act 2 for evening performances. For an idea of the show, have a listen to the 2016 London Cast Recording – also available on Spotify.

About the Key Creatives:

Deb McDowell, Director: “I’ve been a BROS member for 20 years – onstage and off. I’m very proud of the shows I’ve directed for BROS: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Into The Woods; City of Angels; The Producers; and most recently High Society at Richmond Theatre. I’ve been travelling to the Minack with BROS ever since The Boyfriend in 1996, either on-stage, back-stage or as an audience supporter, and have a real appreciation of the joys and challenges of the venue. Working with my highly supportive, tried and tested production team  and supported in the technical areas by friends I’ve worked with numerous times over the years, I’m confident that even as we emerge from these troubled times, Kipps is the perfect show to raise the spirits of the company and audience alike.”

Deb is a director with crystal clear vision but, importantly, also a strong sense of collaboration. She works fluidly with her artistic team to create amazing productions across a variety of venues and budgets and challenges her cast always to think creatively, laterally and energetically. Deb consistently produces shows with great heart and great humour.

Musical Director, Janet Simpson: “I’ve been a BROS member since 1989, originally just on-stage, but in 2008 I decided to take up the baton and was Musical Director for BROS’s award-winning production of Mr. Cinders at Hampton Hill Playhouse.  I have since enjoyed MDing the very challenging musicals Into the Woods, City of Angels, The Producers and, most recently, High Society at Richmond Theatre. I’ve been a regular performer and supporter in MInack projects over the last 20 years and I am excited to be part of this joyous project.”

Janet is well-respected for her musical ability and absolute attention to detail; she has very high expectations of others and herself. She is extremely well-organised, hugely determined, and meets challenges with fortitude and positivity. There is no doubt this company will be well-drilled, confident and ready to delight audiences with musical performances of the highest quality.

Choreographer, Jen Moorhead: “I have been with BROS for nearly 10 years and in that time I’ve choreographed shows for Hampton Hill Theatre, Richmond Theatre and the Minack Theatre. My experience ranges from classics such as Carousel and Oklahoma to lesser-known shows like Curtains and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Pippin and Return to the Forbidden Planet. I also choreographed BROS’s highly acclaimed productions of The Producers and High Society.”

Jen is hugely determined and has very high expectations. Her amazing work with chorus movement has been recognized by Noda and ArtsRichmond. Jen is known for using rehearsal time efficiently and effectively; her attention to detail is what makes her dances and dancers really stand out. She is an excellent teacher, but her rehearsals are always fun and she and ensures that as long as they’re prepared to work hard, even the most reluctant of dancers look good, feel confident and enjoy themselves!

Cast & Creative

Cast List

Character Actor
Ann Pornick Cath Bryant
Arthur Kipps Tom Nunan
Pierce Mathew Madeley
Buggins Tom Cane
Flo Evans Aggie Holland
Sid Pornick Jonathan Warriss-Simmons
Helen Walsingham Heather Stockwell
James Walsingham Sebastian Roughley
Mr Chitterlow Bryan Cardus
Mrs Walsingham Lizzie Brignall
Mrs Walsingham Louise Ellard Turnbull
Lady Punnet Clair Jardella
Mrs Bindo Botting Tracy Sorgiovanni
Lady Dacre Sarah Perkins
Shelford / Vicar / Photographer / Posh Ensemble Jason Thomas
Uncle Bert / Foster / Ensemble Nigel Cole
Aunt Susan / Ensemble Rebecca Tarry
Carshott / Ensemble Chris Nash
Maxwell / Ensemble Jacob Botha
Miss Ross / Posh Ensemble Georgina Skinner
Hayes / Ensemble Jonny Buckley
Policeman / Ensemble Patrick Troughton
Ensemble Rachel Williams
Ensemble Helen Lowe
Ensemble Emma Knight
Ensemble Laura Crowley
Ensemble Gemma Melhuish
Ensemble Lucinda Hennessy
Ensemble Juliet Manners
Ensemble Laura Grant

Creative Team

Role Name
Director Deb McDowell
Musical Director Janet Simpson
Choreographer Jennifer Moorhead
Production Manager Lottie Walker
Assistant MD Carole Smith
Set Design / Project Support Wesley Henderson Roe
Stage Manager Richard Coveney
Sound Stuart Vaughan and team
Costume Mags Wrightson and team
Props Jane Bean, Veronica Martin, Anne Pringle
Join Bros

Show Date: May 2023

Venue: Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Show Contact:

Key Dates

Event Name Date Time Location
Presentation evening September 15, 2020 7.45pm Online
Auditions October 3, 2020 TBC TBC
Auditions October 4, 2020 TBC TBC
First Rehearsal November 3, 2020 8.00pm TBC
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