Harry Threapleton’s Step by Step is a hilarious play. Brimming with naturally funny lines, the performers do an excellent job of creating fabulous character dynamics on stage, filled with energy. The play follows Arthur, played by Edward Clark, whose divorced parents are moving on with new partners. The action mainly follows Arthur’s relationship with his mum’s new partner Greg, played by Laurie Davidson, and the tense beginning of their relationship. This play is incredibly heart-warming and captures the fun and beauty that come from a blended family.
Opening with mum, played by Nell Hickson, and son in a car singing along to ‘American Pie’, this starting scene sets the tone for the whole performance. The fun opening is furthered by Threapleton’s words as mum tells Arthur all about a kiss she had to this song! A classic embarrassing mum moment, Threapleton’s writing does an incredibly accurate job of creating relatable characters, and relationships. Mum is just one example. Dad, played by George Thomas, is another, as he enjoys films with his son whilst also disagreeing with him about many aspects of them! Greg possibly has the funniest lines of the play, they often will make you laugh out of their pure insanity and Davidson adds fantastic mannerisms to further Greg as a character. His finger guns appear multiple times and are never out of place.
The play, although mostly funny does have more tender and serious moments which brings a very good flow to the piece. Hickson playing mum has a large role in this. She is an incredibly versatile performer and a stand-out of the night. Delivering lines with sincerity, Hickson is natural and takes to the stage with presence and power. When sharing the shocking news to Arthur that she is seeing someone, Hickson ensures this moment retains the grandeur and shock it has to her son, whilst also adding some humour. It is a brilliant moment. Dad’s, partner Elizabeth, played by Ellie Mather, is another great character who brings the play some tender moments. Another natural performer, Mather instantly creates a character who is likeable, with a strong sense of sensibility about her. It is a great addition to the craziness of the story!
As a funny play, there is room for improvisation, which the cast did and each time it adds to the performance and draws laughter from the audience. However, at times, elements of professionalism were lost. Some transitions were slightly messy which meant some set pieces were tripped over. Some blocking also meant actors’ faces were blocked from view and there were times when their backs were to the audience. It was a busy set for performers to move around, complete with a living room, dining room and a car. These three areas made a clear distinction of location and gave a naturalistic setting for the action to take place.
The play also has a fantastic plot twist towards the end when Clara Dammann’s character comes onto the stage. This came completely out of the blue and adds another layer of excitement to the play. The standout element of the play are the character dynamics. It feels as if they are all a real family and the interactions of anger, frustration and love between characters build the narrative and further the characters. There is also great flow to this performance, the story line makes sense and so it is easy to be absorbed into the action.
Step by Step is an uplifting production. The end scene is particularly heart-warming as all the characters come together despite the feelings they once had for each other. It highlights a parent’s love for their child but also a child’s love for their parent. A comical performance that the entire team created brilliantly!
Image credit: First Theatre Company