Stepping Out is a comedy about a group of mismatched characters in the 80s who are all in the same recreational tap dance class. And yes, they do actually dance. If that doesn’t sound funny already, Lorna Treen’s performance as ancient, grouchy pianist Mrs Fraser in the opening scene, delivering witty one-liners in brilliant dead pan style, sets the show off to a very good start.
As the play progresses, we get to learn more about each character and their relationships with each other, some of which aren’t as rosy as they might initially seem. Although a bit of a slow burner in terms of narrative in the first half, when the class is offered the chance to put on a real show to a paying audience the tension is raised a notch and it picks up some of the pace it had been lacking.
The script posed some difficulties with staging, largely due to its ensemble nature (most of the cast were on stage a majority of the time) and the structure of the dialogue into small snippets rather than full scenes. This had the effect of it all feeling a bit fragmented and having a stilted sense of flow, but director Zoe Most and the cast did well to keep action on stage alive from every angle despite this.
Interspersed with the comedy were some very touching moments, particularly between Andy and Geoffrey. However these got a little bit lost among the more active, ensemble scenes, and could have been more impactful with a bit more contrast in pace and dynamics.
The dancing itself was very enjoyable and was well choreographed to show progression in the class’s ability from the beginning to the end of the play. Tap isn’t easy to master, so respect must go to the whole cast for giving it a very good shot, as well delivering a solid comedic acting display.
The stand out performer (for me) was Isabella Rogers as the outspoken, middle class Vera. Her facial expressions, comic timing and perfect delivery of the line “I used to be fat, you know” had the whole audience giggling with glee. She drew attention whenever she was on stage and delivered a captivating and comical performance. Olivia Evershed, playing the browbeaten Andy, showed great depth in a complex character and was also compelling to watch.
For the opening night of a student production, one can forgive it being a little rough around the edges. The heart and soul of the piece were definitely intact and it delivered laughs a plenty. Overall, a very enjoyable evening, well worth stepping out to.