THEATRE REVIEW: Stepping Out at Rotherham Civic

THEATRE REVIEW: Stepping Out at Rotherham Civic

By Michael Upton | 08/06/2022

THEATRE REVIEW: Stepping Out at Rotherham Civic


AN AM-dram show about a ragtag dance troupe or a night in front the telly sitting through England v Germany.

The choice before me on Tuesday night was between watching a disparate squad gamely but vainly trying to put their trainer’s instructions into practice—— or heading down to the Civic.

Full-time analysis suggested an evening with Mavis Turner and her trainee tappers had provided stacks more entertainment than Gareth Southgate’s Lions’ answer to tiki-taka.

A sluggish performance redeemed by a late Harry Kane penalty — I’d seen it all before — but Stepping Out was completely new to me.

Deliberately having kept my research to a minimum, I went along expecting Rotherham Rep to be staging a musical, but couldn’t have been more wrong.

For the similarly ignorant, Richard Harris’ play is best described as an ensemble comedy punctuated by brief and mostly comic dance sequences.

The eight-strong troupe marshalled by Mavis (real-life theatre company principal Rebecca Noble) range from the snooty to the earthy, the mouthy to the timid, but have the common goal of wanting to polish up their footwork.

Crumbling confidence, personality clashes, off-stage struggles and costume cock-ups all conspire to hamper the Tappers’ mission, but this bickering, bantering crew can’t help but win you over on the way.

Until the final scene at a charity cabaret show, the action centres on the church hall that functions as the home ground where peppy but long-suffering Mavis runs the troupe through their steps, accompanied on the piano but the belligerent Mrs Fraser.

Elaine Demaine as the key-bashing battleaxe and Fiona Broadhead as brassy Sylvia take the lion’s share of laughs and each have excellent comic timing, spot-on delivery and fine physical comedy skills, but there are plenty of killer lines to go around.

There are subtler but still admirable turns by Karen Powell as Maxine, hinting at a vulnerability beneath her larger-than-life facade, and Heather Brooke as Andy, the nervous wallflower battling unspoken demons.

Some characters, while ably played, feel somewhat undeveloped —
I’d like to have learned more about skittish, camp, nerdy Geoffrey (Dan Fisher) and earnest, eager Dorothy (Naomi Deaville) — but any blame there lies with the source rather than the Rep.

In truth, at around two hours, Stepping Out’s running time feels about right, but I’d still happily join Mavis’ mob down the pub for a post-class pint, and I’ve not even mentioned the wisecracks of sarcastic “lanky bird” Rose (Jude Gray) or the intriguing character of gossipy housewife Vera (Anita Wilshaw).

Special mention should go to Noble and fellow choreographer Janet Mitchell for dance routines showing the students and various stages of their progress, including a finale worth waiting for, and director Roger Hazelwood for getting his cast into peak condition for matchday.

By the time the Tappers had brought it all together on stage, I felt more like punching the air than if I’d seen Harry Kane smash home that last-ditch spot kick.

Tuesday’s final score: Gareth’s Goalgetters 0, Mavis’ Marvels 1.

Stepping Out is a Rotherham Civic Theatre until Friday.



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