Gary Power has done it again, with a cracking good, feel good version of The Richard Harris comedy Stepping Out at the Theatre Royal. A capacity audience were wowed by an ensemble of quality actors who joked and bitched and made up and supported each other as characters who come to a rundown St.Joseph’s Hall in mythical Waterford to learn to tap dance once a week with a teacher, whom life and fame had passed her by but she wants to have meaning in her life and to mean something to others. Karen Steenson is splendid as Mavis the teacher and she embodies many recognisable aspects in this excellent play.
The joy of this production is that it relates to real people, people with dreams, disappointments, women left on the shelf, ignored, taken for granted but often hopeful of a better life, better sex, better housed, less problems and a purpose. An audience tunes into this reality, and recognises a kindred longing, a shared sense of value and purpose and the result is an explosion of feeling, of emotion, of fun and laughter with dollops of self pity and doubt as the pathos comes out. But by the end in a wonderful illusion of theatre, these women and one man are transformed into sparkling dancers, almost perfect people, performers who dared to dream and succeeded in a dance of joy – a magical stepping out. It was wonderful to be there in the theatre and not just witness it but to experience that transformation happening.
Des Manahan as the rehearsal pianist was as precious as a monarchy of old queens and he minced and sulked like the maestro he is.
Jenny Clooney was Lynne, the care worker who created little vignettes of tenderness as she described aspects of private lives and grief’s. Marvellous work.
Vicki Graham the social welfare worker who couldn’t tell her left foot from her right as she chewed her nail and wobbled. Excellent performance.
Ruth Coughlan caught the posh wife rearing a moody stepson, to perfection as Maxine and she shone like polished diamonds and gave hop to many in the audience.
Michelle Glendon gave a quiet mousy performance as unhappy Andy who brought the house down as she sought signatures for a petition to prevent The People’s Park being designated as a mass burial site, without prior consultation in the event of a nuclear catastrophe.
Pat Grant was superb as shy Malcolm who displayed grim and deadly determination to learn to dance. Time and again his antics were show-stopping.
Debra Cunningham as Rose was fun in a crude salt of the earth way and you felt for her being ignored at the back.
Nichola Beresford was To the Manor Born as the posh, nosy Vera, upper crust but a demon with brush, pan and marigolds. The audience loved her and yet had sympathy for her character.
Lynda Gough as crude, rude, heart of gold and flint, Sylvia deserves every superlative for a stunning, funny, scatty performance. She out-Twinkled Adele King and her side-splitting exercise routine with a packet of crisps was hilarious.
I loved the local references and the mention of Dick Meany, Betty Bible, Ballytruckle and The Folly.
If you missed this show have no fear as I feel confident Gary Power will have to revive it this autumn.