REVIEW: Stepping Out, Chichester Festival Theatre, until Saturday, November 19

Amanda Holden shows herself the mistress of the casually-insensitive one-liner as the haughty, brittle, in-denial Vera in director Maria Friedman's revival of Richard Harris' 80s classic.

Stepping Out  - the company in rehearsal
Stepping Out - the company in rehearsal

Tamzin Outhwaite as Mavis, convener of the tap-dancing class she attends, is similarly impressive in a very different role, one defined by a simple out-of-the-blue revelation which the play neglects to follow up.

And maybe that’s the problem with it. We are watching a disparate group of people gather for their weekly tap fix, and for the most part it’s all rather too schematic. These are characters sketched in, rather than revealed in any depth. About several we are none the wiser by the end of it all.

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The play is slow to rouse itself at the start of both halves, and while it is never less than perfectly watchable, neither is it particularly gripping nor even particularly profound. Maybe time hasn’t been kind to it since its highly-successful heyday; possibly more likely there isn’t terribly much in it for the chaps in the audience. Either way you find yourself wishing for more substance – not helped by a degree of unevenness in the acting, something which underlines in hindsight the uniformly-high quality of virtually everyone in the CFT’s home-grown summer productions. The deeper pleasures are certainly in the Minerva this week.

Phil Hewitt

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