Some way to go be­fore step­ping into a dark night

The Jewish Chronicle - - REVIEWS - Step­ping Out

Shab­bat laws for­bid Gideon from trav­el­ling home, giv­ing the two time to form an un­likely re­la­tion­ship.

Per­mutt loads the dice some­what by mak­ing Gideon par­tic­u­larly ob­ser­vant, and for much — per­haps most — of this play’s un­in­ter­rupted 75 min­utes Tim Stark’s well acted pro­duc­tion in­trigu­ingly ex­plores whether two very dif­fer­ent peo­ple from con­trast­ing uni­verses have any­thing in com­mon

Collins has found (in­deed she com­mis­sioned the play) a char­ac­ter that plays to her es­tab­lished strengths. Her Gina is al­lur­ing and frag­ile, tough but psy­cho­log­i­cally brit­tle and it’s one of those per­for­mances that work as well in the mo­ment as it does in ret­ro­spect, after the facts of Gina’s life with her (off-stage) hus­band and stroke vic­tim are re­vealed. Coen mean­while de­liv­ers a nicely judged, un­der­played turn as a re­luc­tant ac­coun­tant trapped by the ex­pec­ta­tions of his fam­ily and more in love with cin­ema than ei­ther his job or his fiancée who works at the Jewish Mu­seum.

But even at 75 min­utes the play loses nar­ra­tive steam. Gideon’s at­tempt to es­cape his life feels like a dra­matic add-on, as does Gina’s hith­erto hid­den ta­lent as an artist.

One di­rec­to­rial tip: it’s prob­a­bly wise never to ac­tu­ally show the art cre­ated by a char­ac­ter, es­pe­cially when it is praised to high heaven. Be­cause when it’s as bad as Gina’s, you risk turn­ing the sin­cere into the ris­i­ble.

As it is, this mo­ment ar­rives when this odd cou­ple have prob­a­bly taken things as far as their re­la­tion­ship and this play - are likely to go.

Vaude­ville The­atre

ON PA­PER, it seems like a great idea. Richard Har­ris’s 1984 com­edy was a long run­ning West End hit and later turned into a film star­ring Liza Minelli. It didn’t do well on Broad­way but Bri­tish au­di­ences took to heart the story about a group of women — and one man — for whom tap danc­ing lessons turn out to be an an­ti­dote to lone­li­ness.

In Maria Fried­man’s pro­duc­tion, first seen in Bath, Tamzin Outh­waite was due to play teacher Mavis, but the painful swelling in her foot turned out to be a stress frac­ture. So at short no­tice the ex­cel­lent Anna-Jane Casey has stepped in to play the role un­til Outh­waite has re­cov­ered.

But if Outh­waite’s foot was made to feel poorly due to stress caused by this show, I think I know how it feels. Be­cause, although Fried­man has con­scripted a tal­ented cast to play Mavis’s pupils, in­clud­ing Amanda Holden as the snob­bish Vera and an in-form Tracy-Ann Ober­man as the bawdy Max­ine — a vi­sion of Farah Fawcett hair and leop­ard skin print — Har­ris’s script has all the zip of a zim­mer frame.

The play, which is set in Robert Jones’s well-ob­served de­sign of a suit­able dingy mu­nic­i­pal hall, is old fash­ioned, but not in a way that al­lows you to wal­low in nos­tal­gia. Much of the hu­mour re­lies on the cast danc­ing badly as Mavis at­tempts to drill them into a cho­rus line for a char­ity fundraiser. That’s fine. But it’s also brim­ful of the kind of gags that are mildly amus­ing at best — “It may be Fe­bru­ary out­side,” says the hy­gien­eob­sessed Vera, “but it’s al­ways Au­gust un­der your armpits”— and jaw-drop­pingly stale at worst.

In this lat­ter cat­e­gory, one in par­tic­u­lar stands out. It’s about the sole bloke of the dance group — meek Ge­of­frey (Do­minic Rowan) — stick­ing out like a sore thumb. The ob­ser­va­tion is then ap­plied to Rose (San­dra Marvin), the only black char­ac­ter in the play, who in the man­ner of racial stereo­typ­ing of the time, also has a broad West In­dian ac­cent.

It’s a shame to have to be so hard on a play that al­lows women char­ac­ters to dom­i­nate the stage. But you leave grate­ful, not for the en­ter­tain­ment but that writ­ing and au­di­ences have moved on.

PHOTO: HE­LEN MUR­RAY

Collins plays to her strengths

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