Review by George Allan (June 1977)
Over the last two or three years the Youth Action Theatre at Hampton Court has come up with some real winners, but John Whiting's whimsical, romantic, satirical comedy A Penny For A Song is their best yet!
Director Eric Yardley had obviously taken great time and trouble to make sure his actors understood the play at every level - whether high farce, deep pathos, gentle romance or bitter satire.
Stephen Bentley as the worldly-wise yet essentially conservative High Tory had probably the best lines in the play, combining wit and wisdom as well as a considerable degree of egotism. He was magnificent, save for his excessively stiff carriage at times.
He was more than ably supported by Robert Burrows as his manservant in a performance of gentle charm and honest concern.
Once other charater approached these two, Harry Cowell, the lookout perched in a box high above the stage keeping watch for the the invading French and for local fires. Apart from a wayward Dorset accent this was a gem of a performance, whether in high comedy or in genuine concern at the invasion.
There was a superb cameo from Debbue Lane as Lamprett's wife, her fine sense of timing allowing her to judge to perfection how to ask him to close the garden gate to keep the cannonballs out!
Sarah Keeler, as her daughter, looked lovely, but did tend to gabble in the earlier scenes. Unfortunately, Bernard Forrester, who played the difficult role of Edward Sterne, with whom she falls in love, was terribly stilted, even in the most passionate speeches that foreshadow modern Socialism.
Hugh Williams as the little French boy who speaks not a word throughout the play was still very much a presence representing the essential humanity of the enemy.
As always with YAT the smaller roles were filled brilliantly and there must be a special word of praise for Kim Gerhold's handling of Brian Kerr's sound effects - the resident TTC sound men seem to get carried away by the new sound system in the theatre.
Melanie Wood's setting was excellent and Chris Olney and Len Lee's lighting was quite beautiful.