by Richard Harris.
Tour to 31 July 2010.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 April at Richmond Theatre.
Not very sure of its ground.
Fifty years ago Richard Harris tried his hand at a TV script, had it accepted and has been writing high-quality popular drama since. There’s been plenty more TV, while among the stage work two pieces with a key role for telephones are notable: thriller The Business of Murder and amateur cricketing comedy Outside Edge.
Perhaps this very professional writer’s start gave him a feeling for amateurs, for his other famous stage play is Stepping Out, about the desolate souls who gather for a weekly tap-dancing class. No telephones, but a strong sense Mavis’s classes not only help her keep body and soul together after her professional dancing career’s faded, but provide a social anchor for the class members.
There’s comedy, tension, pathos. And the redoubtable class pianist, whom you offend, a) easily, and b) at your peril. All making a middle-of-the-road comedy with acerbic twists. Such plays are easily enjoyed, but difficult to write at this level. At dead-centre in the Harris chronology, it’s become a perennial, even now it’s a period piece. So it certainly deserves an anniversary revival.
In fact it deserves a considerably better one than Richard Baron provides. He’s an intelligent director, so I can only assume his work on 39 Steps and its ilk has overwhelmed his dramatic sensibility for the moment, since there’s little sense of these characters’ individuality. They’re dramatic types – the pushy, the nervous, the terminally unconfident, the sparky. But any sense of individual people is left to chance.
It’s neatly set in a community hall (perhaps a little too neat) by Ken Harrison. And Lucy Williamson makes Mavis credible, her security and confidence in taking a class in tap, where she excels, offering her a happy hour or two in a life where her career is over the edge without ever having reached a peak.
But the closer to the headline cast you get the more there’s one-dimensional characterisation, while the tacked-on feelgood finale, where the class have somehow acquired professional hoofing levels, has little of the mix of comedy and reality a production really needs to have on tap.
Geoffrey: Brian Capron.
Vera: Anita Harris.
Mavis: Lucy Williamson.
Rose: Wendy Mae Brown.
Maxine: Natalie Cleverley.
Mrs Fraser: Janet de Vigne.
Sylvia: Katie Kerr.
Lynne: Catherine Milsom.
Andy: Johanne Murdock.
Dorothy: Karen Traynor.
Fairy: Lucy Woolliscroft.
Director: Richard Baron.
Designer: Ken Harrison.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Musical Director: Edward Farmer.
Choreographer: Kenn Oldfield.
Assistant director: Sally McCormack.
Assistant choreographer: Felicity Butler.