“Stepping Out” BY Richard Harris
Lace Market Theatre
Lace Market Theatre
It’s Thursday night and Mavis, a former professional chorus girl, along with the accompanist Mrs Fraser is getting ready to meet her tap dancing class. Like many a class of this type, the ‘pupils’ are a mixed bunch. There are your loud ladies like Maxine – always able to get things for people at cut-down prices – Or Rose getting over her hair disaster with a wig and sequined trainers – and salt of the earth type Sylvia. Then there are the quieter participants Dorothy, Lynne and Andy, the latter being a bit of an enigma to the others. And finally, there is Geoffrey, recently widowed and the only man in the group.
Everyone is different but they have a common interest in tap dancing so meet up once a week for a lesson. The group has been together a while and everyone, on the surface, seems to get one with each other. Tonight is a bit different though as there is a new person joining the team. Tall, thin and well dressed with a refined accent, Vera has arrived like a hurricane for her first lesson with Mavis and her first encounter with the Thursday night regulars.
As the rehearsals roll on Mavis must mediate the personal dramas that unfold among this mismatched but loveable troop on their ambitious way to the big finale.
We’ve all seen Les Dawson at the piano, playing the wrong notes ( Les was actually a very good pianist) , well I have it on good authority that it’s harder to be able to do something well but give the impression that you can’t do something and make it look, not as good as it could be. I know that most of these actors are quite adept at a bit of hoofing, so it must have been a bit of a task to perform the dance sections “badly” when being able to dance well. This “journey” for the class though makes that pretence, up to the big finale even more heart-warming.
Everyone in this play gets their chance to shine as we discover little bits of their individual characters and back story throughout the show.
Danielle Hall (Mavis), who is also the choreographer for this production, and may I say does a wonderful job of the choreography, after all she is a trained dancer herself. Her portrayal of Mavis is so well done that you can actually picture Danielle as a dance teacher away from the stage. I've seen Danielle dance in productions before but seeing her this close really highlights what a talented dancer she is, and that is not just performing as Mavis.
Sarah Taylor (Mrs Fraser), for me gets the starring role. I love this character and Sarah, while not looking as if she is absolutely relishing this part, I just know that she would be as it is a dream of a role. Mrs Fraser is a bitter woman with some brilliant acidic quips and some lovely comic lines, but oh what a wonderful ending for her. I love this character and I love how Sarah played her.
Charlie Bailey (Lynne) gets to play a quieter role in Lynne, but I love the support that she provides the others, especially Dorothy. Lynne is one of those characters that you would naturally get on with in a class like this. A lovely played down role by Charlie.
Anne Mccarroll (Dorothy) is one of my favourite local actors because she puts so much character into whatever role she takes on. Dorothy is one of those roles where you can let the personality shine without crowding any other character. Dorothy is a trier and I love the way that she triumphs over her own self doubts to be a real team player, and Anne really draws that trait out of this character.
Arwen Makin (Maxine), I don't get to see on stage as often as she should be, and this role as the eager to please "trader" of goods is loud, brash, a little bit naughty and cheeky is a brilliant role for Arwen, and you can see the fun that she is having on stage. Maxine seems to have either a permanent smile or a pout on her face, but later in the story, like the other characters, we discover that this confident exterior has it's cracks.Oh and I love the hair, Arwen!
Amanda Cropper (Andy) plays the quietest of the roles in this play, but while being one of the less upfront characters, she also manages to stick out. Just follow the little clues that this character provides to see what is going on in her life and why she is the way she is, and the reason why she goes to tap classes. Amanda builds this role up nicely and her performance in Act Two comes as a slap in the face moment.
Stephen James (Geoffrey) can tap dance in real life, and I know that he is perfectionist, so for him, he may have had one of the hardest jobs; dancing as a novice and getting things clumsily wrong when it goes against the grain of what he, and every other dancer is taught to do right. You instantly fall in love with this character and his back story. there is a certain fragility with Geoffrey, a bit of a Roy Cropper (Coronation Street) character who can be teased without knowing most of the time, and possibly a little scared of some of the women.
Joanna 'Joey' Hoyes (Sylvia) is another actor I love to see on stage and this role just made me howl.Sylvia is naughty but is lovable with it, she is sarcastic and says the things that we all wished we had the nerve to say. Sylvia is depicted as a bit of a gal, but we learn that she is very loyal to her partner, and you cross her at your peril. I've seen Joanna in some brilliant character driven parts, and this is another one of them.
Liza Pybus (Rose) is another wonderful character actor and gets to show off her accent skills in this part. Liza plays this role quite different to the way it was originally written as Harris wrote the part for a black actress. Liza has therefore had to change the character slightly to play to her one comedic strengths. Undertones of being the outsider as well as the underdog in many ways, Liza reminds us that, even if this is the case, Rose doesn't see herself as either and gives a lot of self belief and strength to Rose.
Sara Heafford (Vera), I think may be a new name to me, it's definitely her debut for the Lace Market Theatre, but what a wonderful role to debut in. Vera is one of those people who wants to take charge straight away, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Likewise with what she says; she certainly puts her refined mouth into action before engaging that middle class brain. The audible gasp from the audience when she tells Sylvia that she was once as big as Sylvia, just after having her child. Sara has wonderful comic timing and is a natural comedy actor who I really hope we get to see more of on the many Nottingham stages.
Bex Mason is Director as well as Set Designer and has certainly managed to bring out the very best in all of her cast with this season finale.
Allan Green’s Lighting Design and Jack Harris’ Sound Design are both inobtrusive but well noted by me. The sound cues were spot on, especially with the piano sections.These and the lighting cues should never be noticed by the audience but at the same time be noted, as when they are noticed, it's normally not intended to be so. Jack also gets an unseen part in this production as well, but no spoilers from me on that one.
I must also mention the amazing costumes. Linda Croston has pulled these costumes out of the bag, so to speak, especially those for Vera, and I loved the suit for Mrs Fraser.
A wonderful, energetic and heart-warming end to the current Lace Market Theatre season. A season which has never wavered from being most entertaining and brimming with talented actors. I can't wait for the new season as there are more goodies on the
It’s now becoming the norm that the productions at the Lace Market Theatre are sold out before their opening night, and this is another show that has done just that. If you want to see this season closer, and you don’t have a ticket, it may be worth contacting the box office for ticket returns/cancellations, as that will be the only way you’ll be able to enjoy this wonderful and fun show which closes on Saturday 27 July.