Presented by: St Judes Players
Reviewed: 19th April 2018
Alan Ayckbourn’s Taking Steps follows a tongue-tied solicitor who has bitten off more than he can chew. Set in a dilapidated Victorian three-storey country house, reputedly a former bordello and said to be haunted by a deceased prostitute, the play follows six characters in the course of one hectic night and morning, with continual running up and down stairs and in and out of rooms. The audience are witness to the happenings on every level, while the characters remain oblivious.
Anita Zamberlan Canala is a convincing Elizabeth (Lizzie), a dancer who, three months into her marriage, is planning escape from her bombastic, alcoholic husband Roland (Jack Robins). Robins’ experience shines through in this role and his blustering is effective and amusing. Mason Willis begins stiffly as Lizzie’s eccentric, love-struck brother, Mark but as the nerves abate, he grows into the endearing if somewhat boring, naïve younger sibling. Mark is infatuated with Kitty (Jessica McGiffin), his ex-fiancée.
Adrian Heness plays the key role of Tristram, a tongue-tied, awkward representative for Roland’s solicitor, and the most complex of all characters. He had the physicality for the role but didn’t quite reveal the layers of conflicting emotion as he stumbles in and out of the numerous personal problems of the rest of the characters.
The show stealer is the roguish builder, Leslie (Tony Busch), the landlord for the home, which Roland is currently renting and wanting to buy. Leslie is a biker, who with greed, desperation, a bit of drink and a heap of courage persists in trying to close the sale. A genuine performance, despite the contrived material, and his encounter with Lizzie sees the most sexual hilarity of the play.
Incorporating three floors of rooms and two staircases on a relatively small stage and still allowing the actors to move from one scene to another without tripping over each other, took some creativity and was well designed by Mary–Jane Minear. The now infamous ‘flat’ staircases, incorporated by Ayckbourrn himself in the original production, add to the farce as the characters are seen to clamber, run, and fall ‘up’ and ‘down’ throughout.
This is not one of Ayckbourn’s best plays and Kym Clayton should be commended for taking on the challenge. Opening night saw the audience appreciate the goings on with stifled giggling through to occasional laugh out loud moments but the full potential of the piece seemed to stay just beyond our grasp. Timing is critical in a farce and the whole thing could have done with a greater energy and speed that I hope will come as the season progresses.
Reviewed by Trish Francis
Venue: St Jude’s Players 444 Brighton Rd, Brighton, SA 5048
Season: April 19th – April 28th
Duration: 160 Minutes with interval