The Theatreguide.London Review
Union Theatre Autumn-Winter 2011
This play defies criticism. Richard Harris's 1984 comedy (unobtrusively updated by the playwright for this revival) is a sweet tail-wagging puppy dog of a show, tripping all over itself in its desire to please you and be petted, and there's no point to doing anything but giving yourself over to its innocent good spirits and enjoying yourself.
The scene is a church hall where a former chorus girl ekes out a living and keeps (as it were) a toe in by teaching a weekly tap dancing class to a motley group of housewives (and one token man) who are all there more for the excuse to get out of the house than from any real artistic ambition.
So, in between bouts of trying to follow the instructor's simple time steps, they chat and gossip and betray little insights into themselves.
They are, of course, a cross-section of stereotypes – the big brash one, the jolly fat one, the snooty posh one, the mousy shy one, and so on – and their secrets are predictable.
No points for being able to guess long in advance whose husband beats her, whose ignores her, or any of the other small revelations – though you might notice that every little gesture toward a subplot is left hanging as an unresolved loose end in the play's determination to reach a happy ending.
Will the general good will overcome the occasional spats? Will they learn enough to be able to perform at a local charity show without totally embarrassing themselves? Will we get a finale in which they magically dance the way they do in their wildest dreams? Do you really have to ask?
I'm not spoiling any surprises, because predictability and formula are very big parts of the play's appeal, and it's precisely because we know there will be nothing unexpected that we can relax and enjoy the fairy tale.
Little more is asked of the cast than that they play stereotypes and dance badly, and they all accomplish that. David Ball's direction is more assured in the light-hearted scenes than in the occasional moments of pathos or darkness, which generally fall flat.
But turn off your critical faculties and just let the puppy dog romp, and you'll have a thoroughly pleasant evening.
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Review - Stepping Out - Union Theatre 2011