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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS
at the Theatre Royal, London

THE LAST STEPS
By Heather Neill

  Billy Zane and Claire Bloom

This piece - play doesn't seem quite the right word - is both fluffy and sweet, like a forgotten toffee discovered in a child's pocket, and just as unpalatable. But there is no accounting for taste and my dislike is not going to weigh heavily with the approving audience who seem to be finding their way to the Haymarket. Richard Alfieri's two-hander about the Florida minister's widow and her gay dance teacher is, after all, a worldwide hit already.

Lily Harrison (Claire Bloom) arranges for an agency to send her a dance teacher, although she is in need of a partner rather than instruction. To begin with, their relationship is predictably tetchy (allowing for a certain amount of humour) but as they proceed through the Swing, the Tango, the Viennese Waltz, the Foxtrot, the Cha-cha and contemporary dance, an affectionate friendship blossoms, ending with an ultra sentimental "bonus lesson" which it would perhaps be mean to give away. After all, anyone still in the theatre at this point will probably regard it as the proverbial icing on the cake.

Bloom, now in her 70s - it is more than half a century since she starred with Chaplin in Limelight - is still luminous, but there is something tentative, ill at ease about her performance. Billy Zane, on the other hand, inhabits his part so completely that when he made a couple of tiny mistakes in his lines it seemed that Michael Minetti rather than the actor stumbled conversationally for a moment. The dancing is executed with obvious enjoyment, which helps, but there isn't quite enough of it for a potential audience newly devoted to dance as the result of recent television programmes.

Christopher Woods' set, a well-appointed, wicker- dressed apartment with gaudy sea views, is a suitable backdrop for the B-movie-style narrative. A shame, though, that Mr. Zane had to enter repeatedly in the semi-blackout to replace the carpet which he began every session by rolling up. Surely director Arthur Allan Seidelman could have found a different solution.

It would be unfair not to acknowledge the occasional wit. My favourite examples were Lily's horror at revealing she is over 70: "Say your real age out loud and your face hears you." and Michael's comment on Lily's difficulties with her husband: "That's what happens when you marry outside your gender". But for me the gems were few.

 


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