Review: Stepping Out makes giant strides for Harlow Theatre Company

Entertainment / Thu 18th Jul 2019 am31 09:56am

Review: Stepping Out by Harlow Theatre Company
Victoria Hall Theatre

IF you ever wanted to go and see a feelgood, heartwarming play then this production of Stepping Out is for you.

This was the quintessential ensemble piece with every actor in perfect harmony with each other to produce a wonderful evening of theatre.

The play concerns eight individuals from disparate backgrounds and with differing motivations who attend the same weekly tap dancing class in a dingy church hall. Despite the students at first treating the classes as social occasions, and showing little co-ordination, they later develop a level of skill and cohesiveness. The dance routines are the background for the focus of the play, the relationship and interaction of different people.

With ten actors on stage, they have only a small opportunity to carve out their characters but they all seize the chance with aplomb. Whether it is Melissa Guest’s expressive Sylvia to Jessica Rickett’s vulnerable Andy, they manage to carve out wonderful characters on the Victoria Hall stage.

This reviewer was so impressed with all the actors but with Melissa Guest in particular. She made every line a winner but never hogged the limelight.

The same could be said of Jessica Rickett’s portrayal of Andy. She subtly lets you know that somethis is awry in her life. It is beautifully understated.

Then we have Vanessa Wood as Vera who is an amalgam of every Hyacinth Bucket/Margo Leadbetter character you have met in your life. Vanessa’s performance is a masterclass in social mannerisms and ticks. Or in other words, very funny.

We should also not underestimate the lead performances of Michelle Jimenez-Alder as Mavis and her pianist Sarah Wiggins as Mrs Fraser. There is more to Michelle’s performance than meets the eye. In many ways she is like the conductor more than the choreographer.

As we said, this was an ensemble, with each playing a part. Many of the characters took us right back to the eighties. Kathryn Taylor’s Maxine was everything and more you would expect of a Maxine form the eighties. What a joy and what comedic timing, especially the joke about “I didn’t even understand the interval”.

There was just one man and Dan Rickett’s Geoffrey was played with nervous poignancy as a lonely widow doing his best to enjoy dance classes. The role was an important foil.

Let us look at three characters we have not mentioned: Helga Kilroy never gives a poor performance and her character is an absolute hoot. Helga lights up the stage, every time we speak.

Jocelyn Johnson’s Dorothy has charm and warmth in equal measure. The same can be said of Ella Forman’s Anne, who is a constant throughout.

The final performance is a sold gold revelation and it is no wonder the packed audience gave a rapturous round of applause.

Much credit must go to the production team headed by director Jeanne Stacey, who has let the characters breathe and develop all their performances. We also imagine that actually choreographing Stepping Out is a lot more tricker than you realise, so again much praise to choreographer, Debbie Hannam.

Stepping Out runs until Saturday.


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