Taking Steps (tour – Southwold)

“Taking Steps” is not the most frequently revived of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays. So it makes an interesting choice to launch Suffolk Summer Theatres’ 2014 season.

promotional artwork
promotional artwork

The multi-room setting of Taking Steps presents a challenge to any designer working wih a small stage in two different venues. Maurice Rubens overcomes this with a subtle extension to the proscenium arch to incorporate that all-important cupboard n one of the attic bedrooms. Rosanna Miles as the willowy manipulated Kitty spends much of the time in this; the audience sympathises.

Most of her predicaments ae down to Mark (Jamie Chapman), a personnel officer stuck in the wrong job (pity the fellow employees who have to deal with him). He really wants to run a fishing-tackle shop, for which he hopes his brother-in-law will provide the finance, and in the meantime bores anyone forced to listen to him into sleep. Chapman makes him just as irritating as he ought to be.

The sister in question is former dancer Elizabeth (Imogen Slaughter). Although whisked out of the back row of the chorus by businessman Roland (Michael Shaw) as his fourth wife, she finds life with him sufficiently dull – not to say frustrating – to want out. Roland has rented a dilapidated and reputedly haunted mansion house deep in the countryside. He plans to buy it from struggling builder Leslie (Simon Snashall).

Financial transactions of this magnitude require the services of a lawyer. What Roland and Leslie get is (very) junior partner Tristram, all puppy-dog eagerness but communicating only in Spoonerisms. Iain Ridley makes the most of this part, as indeed do Slaughter, Shaw and Snashall with theirs. Director Richard Frost keeps the bubble afloat and ensures that the audience never gets lost in the labyrinth that is The Pines. Which, of course, was once a brothel.

Taking Steps runs at the Summer Theatre, Southwold until 19 July and transfers to the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh 24 July to 2 August.