An innately funny show…which at its heart contains a feel-good story
Rainhill Garrick have limbered up wonderfully under the direction of David Parker and choreography of Jo Webster to bring us Richard Harris’ popular play which follows a group of seven women and one man, who each have their own reasons for turning up every Thursday night to a beginner’s tap class run by Mavis (Webster), a failed professional dancer.
For the women – Vera (Judith Martindale); Maxine (Alison Mawdsley); Andy (Lynn Aconley); Sylvia (Lucy Whitfield); Dorothy (Edi Tinsley); Lynne (Jenny Martindale); and Rose (Rosetta Parker) – the class represents their only escape from the confines of relationships that haven’t worked out the way they hoped. Geoffrey (Gerald Walker) as the only man is a study in limp passivity. But of course, you can’t have any sort of routine without some musical accompaniment which is where the very serious and sober pianist Mrs Fraser (Tracey Duffy) steps in.
Escapism turns into something more serious though when Mavis signs them up to perform at a charity event and as the big day approaches, tempers start to fray as each of the characters succumbs to the pressure, resulting in both arguments and the disclosure of long-held secrets along the way.
The biggest challenge of this play is that with so many characters on stage, we don’t get to dwell long enough to learn more about them and given the range of serious topics covered – bereavement; cancer; domestic violence; loneliness; unfulfilled lives – it only really hints at them and sadly offers little resolution to the problematic lives that lurk behind these issues.
What you do get as always from Rainhill Garrick is spirited ensemble acting and strong performances from the cast: Webster excels as the magnanimous Mavis balancing warmth and toughness; Judith Martindale delights as the terribly posh Vera who joins the class to find friendship and comes equipped with a cleaning kit to give the loos a good scrub and a bucket to collect discarded gum; Aconley captured the sensitivity of the permanently swathed Andy whose struggles are only understood towards the end; Walker is the wettest of blankets right up until the moment that he isn’t; and Duffy provides scene-stealing comic turns throughout as the cantankerous pianist Mrs Fraser. Overall the production has many strong qualities and the two dance numbers at the end are performed brilliantly with able assistance from dancers Helena Hanlon; Olivia Draycott; and Dani Gore.
Richard Parker and Rob Williams have cleverly created the illusion of a church hall without cluttering the stage with stage. The profusion of brightly coloured leg warmers and leotards serve as a continual reminder that we are in the 1980’s: the decade of bad taste.
All in all, Rainhill Garrick Society give us what they do best: an innately funny show with a mix of slapstick and farce, and which at its heart contains a feel-good story of underdogs striving to discover their potential.
Stepping Out plays at Rainhill Village Hall 17th – 19th October with performances starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from Rainhill Post Office or ticket hotline 01744 813 429.
Rainhill Garrick Society was formed in 1942 and meet weekly on Tuesday and Thursday at Rainhill Village Hall. For further information on their productions or to get involved then visit their website https://www.rainhillgarrick.co.uk/
Rainhill Village Hall is within walking distance of Rainhill Station and there is free car parking available – post code L35 4LU. There are also some lovely restaurants and bars in and around the village if you want to treat yourself before the show and make a night of it.
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 13th October 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★