by Richard Harris
Saturday 28th September 2019 saw the 400th production at The Retford Little Theatre and what a fantastic show to celebrate such an occasion.
The comedy Stepping Out by Richard Harris is about a group of working-class amateurs with inhibitions and two left feet. I have nothing but praise for every part of the production and I know from the reaction of the audience, that everyone felt the same.
Sue Benson who played the patient yet determined dance teacher and expert tapper Mavis made it seem as if she had just popped out of a tap class somewhere in town and jumped on to stage, so natural and easy to watch was her performance.
Martin Yates who played the class pianist and hard-nosed on looker was not only a talented musician but gave a witty, believable performance with great one liners and some great physical comedy (he’s great at being tipsy!).
For Grace Bowskill who played one of the aspiring tappers Lynne, this was her RLT debut performance and a confident and funny performance she gave. I was very impressed with her expert tapping at the end but even more impressed with her efforts to make her tapping look hopeless early on in the show – this is a skill in itself.
Another two performers making their debut were Pauline Lindsay (Dorothy) and Shelley Harvey (Rose). Pauline’s voice, gait and demeanour were absolutely spot on for the role of Dorothy; her sneezing, wonky cardigan fiddling and repetition of the end of everyone’s sentences had me in fits of giggles. Shelley was equally as convincing and comical playing Rose and I loved her one-liners, given with expert timing, and her relationship with the others was played out perfectly. I was particularly impressed with Rose’s tapping skills at the end.
Donnamarie Stamp played Maxine, a glamourous wheeler and dealer. I thought Donnamarie did an excellent job in being both comical and emotional at times and portraying the complexity of a character who is outwardly confident and funny, but inwardly self-conscious. I loved her physical comedy and facial expression in front of the ‘mirror’ too.
Lesley Oliver was perfectly cast to play the down trodden, anxious over-thinker, Andy. Her mannerisms, intonation and facial expressions were performed expertly and her onstage outburst in Act Two was a great crescendo.
The quiet, nervous, under assuming Geoffrey was played with great effect by Mark Thornton, almost every line received a delighted laugh from the audience and again, the characterisation was perfect. The way he responded to the women as the only male participant, and how they goaded him, was hilarious.
The majority of belly laughs went to Sarah Mullins’ portrayal of Sylvia. Sarah was so funny with her quips about her husband, lack-lustre tapping (but not by the end I might add!) and fantastic physical comedy. Her reactions and actions were perfectly played out.
The snobby, upper-class wannabe with OCD, Vera was performed with aplomb by Jayne Cox. Jayne gave us a confident and accomplished portrayal with her BBC accent and cutting one liners. Her comic timing and reactions to every moment were wonderful to watch.
Overall, a fantastic cast and it was clear to see how hard they must have rehearsed to perform at such a slick level.
Praise must also go to set and costume designers, sound, lighting and stage management for adding to the overall feel of professionalism.
This show would not have been complete without the clever dance routines, choreographed by Betty Teanby and finally, of course, huge congratulations to producer Liz Williams for expert direction, casting and producing such a feel-good show for such a wonderful occasion.
Reviewed by Victoria Evans