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Review: Stepping Out

Mon 14 Jun 2010 In: Performance View at NDHA

Stepping Out By Richard Harris Dir: Colin McColl Starring Suzanne Paul, Sandra Rasmussen Auckland Theatre Company at Sky City Theatre and Bruce Mason Centre Until July 10 A handful of mismatched suburban misfits gather once a week to learn how to tap dance. Rather than reaching for a dream they are all escaping something for an hour or so. Bit by bit we learn what, or who, they block out whilst they bond and bicker at the weekly classes. In Stepping Out UK playwright Richard Harris has created a piece of suburban camp populated by characters who would be equally at home in Coronation Street or a Carry On movie, despite this production's successful geographic re-location to suburban Auckland. This is a show worth seeing, but it's hard to say exactly why. On the plus side there is the womens' mag voyeurism of watching plucky, chirpy, Suzanne Paul parlaying her personal history and Dancing with the Stars triumph into a rather successful stage persona. Her thick-skinned busy-body, Vera, so quick to see the faults of others yet unable or unwilling to see the sickness in her own family life is at times quite moving. Sandra Rasmussen as the aging ex-showgirl dance teacher conveys the vibrancy and work ethic which got Mavis as high up the theatrical chain as an understudy in Sydney and the limitations and disillusionment which stopped her rising any further. Rasmussen is the heart and soul of the show The rest of the ensemble cast - and although Paul and Rasmussen stand out a little this is really a team effort - are uniformly good. Pianist Penny Dodds, acting for the first time as well as accompanying, makes a good fist of piloting her way through a fragile personality camouflaged by passive-aggressive bluster. And was Olivia Tennet consciously channeling that diminutive queen of Carry On camp, Barbra Windsor? On the down side is the script... rather hammy and predictable despite some really good laughs, and structured so that immediately we see under the skin of any character the momentum of the piece moves us on, never to satisfactorily revisit their inner issues. Frustrating. The staging is excellent, the direction sure, the sound dodgy. Each of the cast is wired for sound and it's therefore quite important that a mic be switched immediately a character returns to the stage. The finale is also a concern, with such loud music and frenetic lighting that the sight - and the sound - of the dancing is too often masked. Over all Stepping Out is strangely compelling, in a kind of slow motion car wreck kind of way, like reality television live on stage spiced up with the 'art imitates real life' parallels which the casting of Paul inevitably add to the mix. Tellingly, Saturday night's capacity audience of celebs and real people seemed to be enjoying a great night out. Not great theatre, but a good night out. Jay Bennie - 14th June 2010    

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Monday, 14th June 2010 - 11:45am

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