Writer: Amanda Whittington
Director: Theresa Heskins
Reviewer: Matthew Bagnall
“Who knows what really goes on in a marriage?”
Blackpool. The home of traditional British holidays and now the British Ballroom Championships. This new play by Amanda Whittington (well known for Be My Baby among others) isn’t about dancing at all.
Directed by Theresa Heskins in a co-production with Oldham Coliseum, Kiss Me Quickstep uses the setting of the ballroom competition to explore the underlying issues a modern day couple faces in British society. Financial worries, domineering parents, addiction and the value of life are all scrutinised in this compelling and highly relevant play.
The writing is both clever and witty and is an example of how to develop an engaging and thought-provoking storyline with imaginative characters. Based on three different couples who all have the desire to be successful, we ask the question – What is behind the fake smiles and sequin dresses?
Each character has personality traits that are both relatable and recognisable in the modern day world. This is an important component of creating plays that have the power to both attract and engage audiences from across the community. The satirical nature of their behaviour and actions brings humour to the play, along with constant puns about politics and culture.
Isaac Stanmore – fresh from his appearance in Robin Hood – delivers another impressive performance as Luka (Make sure you don’t call him Luke on the night). His connection with Hannah Edwards as Nancy is clear and brings more purpose to the ongoing dispute with Nancy’s father, Mick.
The characters of Justin and Jodie Atherton – a financially desperate couple from Burslem – provide many of the comedic moments in the play. Their struggles are largely portrayed in a light hearted way by Matt Crosby and Abigail Moore, who are excellent throughout.
The inclusion of young adults from The Academy for Theatre Arts is typical of a New Vic based production. The theatre’s emphasis on connecting with the community is highlighted again here with their involvement being more than merely extras. They have learnt ballroom routines in a matter of weeks and are certainly impressive, putting former Strictly stars to shame.
The set design by Dawn Allsop is simple yet effective, and in collaboration with Daniella Beattie’s lighting design the audience feel a part of the audience at the ballroom event itself. There is some spectacular lighting during some of the dance routines that perhaps could have been used more frequently throughout the production.
The choice of sound effects by James Earls-Davis and Alex Day is appropriate for the play. This includes the familiar sounds of seagulls as the audience enter the auditorium and classic ballroom hits to provide a genuine atmosphere during the number of dance routines.
Kiss Me Quickstep is a play that covers a whole host of topics and is suitable for those that appreciate dance as well as those with two left feet. The plot has real substance that is sure to leave you engrossed throughout. This is an excellent example of new writing and the work regional theatres are producing. Be sure to have your dancing shoes ready just in case you’re invited to show your moves at the end.
Runs until 19 March 2016 | Image: Andrew Billington