Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Progress Theatre - Stepping Out

17th to 26th June 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Talent on tap

Stepping Out, at The Progress Theatre, from Thursday, June 17 to Saturday, June 26

In Stepping Out, a group of women and one man meet weekly in a tap-dance class in a dingy North London church hall struggling to conquer their inhibitions and a preponderance of left feet. This gentle comedy written by Richard Harris, directed by Christine Moran and choreographed by Alice Mulford concentrates on the group as they gradually move from stumbling acquaintance with each other to forge a team worthy of performing to an outside audience.

This eccentric gathering of very mixed abilities and backgrounds tap their Thursday evenings away under the leadership of Louise Coleman's Mavis. And what a bunch - snobby Vera, pushy Maxine, insecure Andy, Sylvia. Dorothy, accomplished Lynne, Rose and shy widower Geoffrey all try their very best as a class. To add a critical gravitas and a less starry outlook, the tetchy Mrs Fraser accompanies on piano - a superb part for Helen Coleman, playing with the touchiness it deserved.

They all have reasons their for being in the class but it never fully develops, teasing with titbits about their lives, their hopes and their anxieties. You strain to know more of their lives outside the hall but finally accept that the aim is the final performance. Will they ever have the ability to pass it off? The overriding factor is that they may not be great dancers, but unlike their feet, they are all heading enthusiastically in the right direction.

It is enlightening to know that the cast had varying degrees of tap dancing experience when they started rehearsals in January, with only three absolute beginners amongst them. They were led and helped by the more experienced and the rehearsals must have mirrored the final drama.

What Stepping Out, as a piece of theatre, lacks in plot and characterisation, it more than makes up for in its enthusiastic portrayal of these well-meaning enthusiastic tap dancing amateurs. To the credit of the cast, they were also able to utterly convince throughout that they were actually improving, eventually triumphing in the feel good finale.

A highly entertaining play that deservedly won the Evening Standard Comedy of the Year award in 1984 and still has the ability to amuse.

DAVID STOCKTON