The Mill at Sonning - Stepping Out
26th November 2015 to 16th January 2016.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Trials and triumphs of ladies' tap-dance
Stepping Out, at The Mill at Sonning, until January 17
You might think a tap-dancing class in a North London church hall an unlikely setting for a good all-round comedy but, if so, you would be mistaken.
Following a highly-successful long run in the West End, Richard Harris's play is the latest production at The Mill.
With nine women and one man gathered together weekly, the first problem for Mavis, nicely played with a mixture of confidence and vulnerability by Amber Edlin, is the line-up. "It has to have tits, teeth and tonsils," she proclaims, immediately leaving Geoffrey – a nice low-key performance by Richard Gibson – a bit short in one department.
As they prepare a set of dance routines for a charity show, Sylvia, an effectively big, crude portrayal by Janine Leigh, points out that poor old Geoffrey is going to stick out like a sore thumb. "No," says Rose, a bright, bubbly personality well-played by Yvonne Newman and the only black woman in the group, "I rather think two people will stick out like sore thumbs."
Laughs build up progressively and irresistibly as the group practise their dance steps and chatter between sessions. "It may be February," Sylvia says, "but it's always August under your armpits." "Keep my knees together?" somebody says, "I've been trying to do that all my life."
Each character is distinct and played skilfully by the individual actor; Michelle Morris, wonderful as the extrovert Maxine, Elizabeth Elvin strong as the over-fussy, put-your-foot-in-it every time, Vera and Belinda Carroll, bringing out the character of the rather dull Dorothy very effectively. Angela Sims as the shy Andy and Ruth Pownall as the equally quiet Lynne had less to do but did it well. Then there was Elizabeth Power as the touchy, gravel-voiced pianist, Mrs Fraser, another well-observed portrait. Everything flowed very smoothly, including the dance routines at the end, thanks to subtle direction from Sally Hughes and choreographers Joseph Pitcher and Charnelle La Touche.
Regarding the final charity show performance, somebody asks Rose who she is bringing. "Just my daughter," she says. "Not your husband?" "No," says Rose gloomily, "he says he'll wait for the DVD."
There are reviews in the Maidenhead Advertiser ("it’s a brilliant comedy and this production does it graceful justice") and the Slough Observer ("a great evening’s entertainment").