New Wolsey’s Kiss Me Quickstep puts its best foot forward
PUBLISHED: 12:54 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:54 14 March 2019
Review: Kiss Me Quickstep, by Amanda Whittington, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until March 23
Dancing is ‘hot’ at the moment. From Strictly Come Dancing to The Greatest Dancer to streamed broadcasts from The Royal Ballet at cinemas, dance, in its myriad of forms, has once more regained its place in the national spotlight.
Kiss Me Quickstep, a new play from Amanda Whittington, captures, not only the glitz and the glamour of dance, but also the drive and determination necessary to win in competition and the toll it takes on families and relationships.
Dance requires talent but it also demands discipline and needs you to know who you are and why you are sacrificing so much for your five minutes of fame on the dance floor.
Set in Blackpool, during the amateur American and Latin championships, Amanda takes us into the world of ballroom dancing by introducing us to three couples who all come from different backgrounds and are at different stages of their dancing lives.
The play opens with Luka (Adrian Klein) taking in the atmosphere and grandeur of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens dance palaces. He is soon joined by dance partner Nancy (Abigail Middleton) and her controlling father Mick (Garry Robson) along with the other couples, the financially precarious Justin and Jodie (David Birch and Vicki Lee Taylor) and national champions Lee and Samantha (Joshua Lay and Michelle Bishop).
The play, set in the dressing rooms and dance floor of the Winter Gardens, pirouettes around these three couples and we are drawn in to their world and absorbed into their stories. They humanize an alien world for most of us and make us realise the dedication and sacrifice required to compete at this level.
We swiftly learn that Mick has paid for Luka to travel over from Moscow to dance with his daughter, in his quest to find Nancy the perfect partner in order for her to win the championships. Meanwhile reigning champions Lee and Samantha appear to be going through a crisis of confidence and the working class Justin and Jodie are discovering that the world of competitive ballroom dancing conjures up both financial and injury problems.
All the characters are well drawn and are engagingly portrayed. Even Mick, who could be seen as a manipulative ogre, is carefully shaped into a misguided, over-zealous coach, an understandably flawed father, rather than a two-dimensional bad guy. It’s another charismatic performance from New Wolsey regular Garry Robson.
But, there’s strength in depth across the cast and they make the most of the drama, pathos and great humour to be found in Amanda Whittington’s script – and there’s also a lot of great dancing on display which serves to provide colour and context to the events going on backstage.
Director Kirstie Davis keeps the show going at a brisk clip, no doubt taking her cue from the show’s title, and uses large, portable clothes rails to provide walls, mirrors and scenery to mark out the performing and dancing area. The lighting and sound are also first-rate.
No review of Kiss Me Quickstep would be complete without mention of the fact that the New Wolsey auditorium has been completely transformed for this production. Not only is the show staged in traverse, with audiences on all sides, the traditional raised stage has gone and been replaced by a flat dancefloor, framed by two arched lighting bars. It looks stunning and puts the audience in the heart of the action. Can we have more shows using this configuration?
Kiss Me Quickstep provides audiences with a captivating evening of discovery offering us a human tale of relationships, ambition and personal discovery, laced with humour and drama – and plenty of glitz and dancing. Heart-warming and hugely satisfying.