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Stepping Out

  • Theatre, Comedy
  • 2 out of 5 stars
  1. © Nobby Clark
    © Nobby Clark
  2. © Nobby Clark
    © Nobby Clark

    Nicola Stephenson (Dorothy)

  3. © Nobby Clark
    © Nobby Clark

    Tamzin Outwaite (Mavis)

  4. © Nobby Clark
    © Nobby Clark
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Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Dull MOR comedy

Not even ‘La La Land’ can bring tap dancing back, but bless this lumbering, buffalo-stepping comedy for trying. Richard Harris’s 1984 play ‘Stepping Out’ is set at an amateur dance class, where a group of middle-aged enthusiasts are trying their best to get their Hollywood glitz on.

Amanda Holden was a musical theatre star long before she was repping breakfast cereals and hosting ITV morning telly and it shows in her central turn as class newcomer Vera. Her showy, but glib, performance is packed with pernickety flourishes – she’s the poshest one at the dance class and shows it with immaculate outfits and constant spritzes of room spray. The other members of the group – including mousy, troubled Andy (Lesley Vickerage), raucous clothes dealer Maxine (Tracy-Ann Oberman) and the only man of the group, Geoffrey (an amusingly at sea Dominic Rowan) – struggle to keep up and her constant jibes don’t help. 

These dancers aren’t just out of step with their accompanist Mrs Fraser’s lumbering piano, they’re out of step with the times, too. There are endless fat jokes, digs at benefit cheats and dull grumbles about invisible husbands. And if the targets are low, the stakes are still lower. This isn’t some kind of Muppet-style save-the-theatre scenario. All this troupe are trying to do is put together a respectable three-minute routine, at agonisingly slow pace. 

There’s something sweetly old-fashioned about ‘Stepping Out’ as a proposition: calibrated to gently stimulate the pulse, without taxing the audience’s pacemakers. Carefully observed characters (especially Anna-Jane Casey, who replaces an injured Tamzin Outhwaite as class leader), an eleventh-hour injection of psychological complexity and a razzle-dazzle finale save it from utter dullness. But sequins or no sequins, if it were any more middle-of-the-road you could tarmac it in place and use it as a traffic island.

Written by
Alice Savile

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