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Stepping Out review at Playhouse Derby

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Steven Dexter adds a whole new layer to a much-loved play, giving a life of its own to the run-down church hall where Mavis holds her tap sessions.

There are delightful cameos of Brownie packs and ballet classes, a Cub wobbling on a bench to see into the toilets, a changing backdrop on the amateur stage. Francis O’Connor’s affectionately recreated hall is a cutaway building on the revolve, an oasis that keeps at bay the crazy-angled flats and streets under demolition in the Britain of 1984.

It is pivotal to this utterly captivating production, deservedly packing them in for joyful nights at Derby. Dexter’s shrewdly chosen cast are almost caricatures at first – Sophie-Louise Dann’s pretentious Vera with her bombshell one-liners, Joanne Redman’s worried little Dorothy, Kim Ismay’s leggy loud mouth Maxine. The costumes and hairstyles say as much about all the women and the one man as their clumsy dancing does.

But as the snapshots of their lives emerge, most apparent in the buttoned-up Andy (Flik Swan), so the respect for them grows. Anita Louise Combe as Mavis holds the whole thing together so well that she appears almost not to be speaking lines at all but simply taking a class. The moment when, alone in a darkened hall, she releases all her frustration in a solo improvisation, is pure magic.

So too, of course, is the finale – the shimmering, glorious moment when the Mavis Turner Tappers put on the Ritz. We love them so much we want to take them home.

Production Information

Playhouse, Derby , October 13-November 17

Richard Harris
Steven Dexter
Derby Playhouse
Cast includes
Anita Louise Combe, Sophie-Louise Dann, Kim Ismay, Joanne Redman, Flik Swan
Running time
2hrs 25mins

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