by Richard Harris
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2JH to 7 July 2018.
Tues-Sat 7.30 pm
Runs 2hr 5 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366
Review: William Russell 21 June
Tap your troubles away
Richard Harris’ hit play gets a brisk and entertaining staging – a little rough at the edges but as the run goes on those will smooth out – from director David Ball, and some very funny performances from a good cast headed by Christina Meehan as Mavis, the retired professional dancer teaching a cast of aspiring tappers. They include the inevitable fat girl, the one with a dreadful marriage, the one with no self confidence to speak of, and the social climbing woman with a second husband much too interested in her daughter by a previous marriage. There is also – Harris does not flinch from cliché – a dragon accompanist from hell (Harriet Earle on fine form) banging out the tunes on an old piano. Harris really does not have much to say about his characters, but what gives the play its abundant pleasures is watching this motley crew learn to dance.
In addition, just to lend a little romantic spice, there is one man, Geoffrey (Sean McDowell), a shy widower attracted to Andy (Emily Stitch), the battered wife, but like her, too tongue tied to do anything about it.
It is essentially an ensemble piece so naming names is invidious but if there is scene stealing to be done it is done by Helen Jeckells as Vera, the social climbing lady with a cleaning fixation and a talent for saying the wrong thing all the time. Her costumes are a delight to the eye and when she turns up in a silver lame onesie it is a fashion disaster moment to treasure. But all the cast seize their chances splendidly.
The challenge the class is presented with by Mavis is to take part in a charity gala and we watch as they squabble, make mistakes, fail to deal with hats and canes, disclose details of their private lives and make unwanted suggestions until finally they perform a more or less successful dance routine on the night. But that, is of course, not the end – we learn they went on the following year to dance again and get a splendidly done top hat and tails routine to send us out into the night toes tapping away.
Mavis: Christina Meehan.
Vera: Helen Jeckells.
Maxine: Lynn Beaumont,
Sylvia: Jessica Brady.
Rose: Monica Leighton.
Dorothy: Ceris Hine.
Lynne: Gabrielle Sabel.
Andy: Emily Stitch.
Geoffrey: Sean McDowell.
Mrs Fraser: Harriet Earle.
Director & Choreographer: David Ball.
Assistant Choreographer: Gabrielle Sabel.
Designer: Mali-Beth Roberts.
LX Designer: Stuart Glover.
Costumes: Capital Costumes/Matrix Theatre.
Photograph: © David Ball