REVIEW: Stepping Out by Richard Harris
Richard Harris’s “rollicking comedy of leg-warmers, laughter and love” was pretty much exactly what we got as the theatre turned itself to the task of combining comedy, pathos and dance in one show. Not easy to find a company to deliver this mix but Hastings seemed naturally to provide what was needed, and under the direction and choreography of Tim and Viv Wormely-Healing respectively, the troupe of players made it happen.
Tracy Sutton as Mavis, the tap class teacher, was the centre of the production. Her dancing and acting talents, and fine pins, set the standard, making her a delight to watch and a performance to steady the show. Around her, the dance class rose to the challenge of making us laugh, mastering some show stopping dances, and surfacing challenging back stories to their lives along the way. Making the most of the fast-paced one-liner jokes that darted from one conversation to another worked to different degrees across the scenes and characters and was a hard ask from the playwright. Carol Hunt’s performance as Vera, was completely up to the task; her character’s well-meaning but obsessive-compulsive bluntness and intrusion into the class was funny, compelling, and moving when her personal situation became clear. Her range of startling costumes was a performance in its own right and they were paraded with the right amount of self-awareness and naive aplomb. Other characters had their moments to shine. Sylvia (Liz Baker) made the most of the opportunities for physical humour with a particularly memorable floor act; Andy (Sarah Matthews) touched us with her attempts to connect with Geoffrey (Andy Haynes) who brought to life the awkwardness of the only man in the group. Charly Guyatt (Lynne), Glenda Quinnell (Dorothy), Kate Dyer (Maxine), and Lisa Hurley (Rose) completed the band of distinctive characters in a united community. Heartwarming stuff, and even the decidedly brusque Mrs Fraser (Pauleen Mclaughlin) was understood and accepted. Pauleen Mclaughlin’s piano skills were a wow moment for the show and greatly added to the authenticity of the community hall set and feel of the piece.
Costumes morphed wonderfully from the everyday ordinary (excluding Vera’s!) to the superb glitter and dazzle of the finale scenes. Despite the plot line difficulties of acquiring the right hats, the actual costumes for the climax of the show were stunningly on the mark and the routines themselves a feel-good high to the evening.