Review: Kiss Me Quickstep, New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme

“What is ‘dance’ in three words?”

Review: Kiss Me Quickstep, New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme

Kiss Me Quickstep. Pic: Andrew Billngton

Nancy from Lytham St Annes, who has been dancing competitively at her father’s bidding since age three, says it’s “Movement to music.” According to her new partner Luka, hired in from Moscow by Nancy’s dad, it’s “Man and woman.”

Kiss me Quickstep, which follows three pairs of dancers through their ups and downs at an amateur dance championship in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, sits happily astride these two interpretations. 

The movement-to-music is handsomely achieved – in the spirited script by Amanda Whittington, in Theresa Heskins’ assured direction, and by six leading actors who all move like they mean business. The dancing is sure-footed both on the floor and within the story. 

It’s a joy to watch and it deserves to pack the house.

The man-and-woman backstories are also well choreographed. Nancy and Luka have issues with her overpowering dad that get in the way of their thing, natch. Jodie’s and Justin’s issues are with their broken-down car, rejected credit card, and overdue mortgage: it feels like their bank manager is the third man in their marriage. And Samantha and Lee, despite being current champions, face crises of confidence in which secret drinking threatens to become a silent wrecker.

These stories are smoothly interwoven, with some pleasing lock steps, spins, and chassés, but I didn’t find in them much by way of the hard edge, menace, and inner turmoil judges look for in, say, the pasodoble.

The play had opened with Luka, in his civvies, miming a few simple dance moves and sighing with aspirational awe: “Blackpool!”  And Blackpool it is, as provincial as you can get however many sequins you sew on the dresses (and however keen Strictly contestants are to dance there).

When it dawns on Samantha that she’s “ended up in a fish tank” she credits it with containing plenty of exotic tropical fish. But it’s still a fish tank in Blackpool.

But back to the dancing and the pasodoble. It’s too bad we don’t get an audience vote. The ensemble from the local Academy for Theatre Arts flesh out the early stages of the competition nicely, and the spirited performance of Nancy and Luka suggest they have a future on the floor, but my eye was invariably on long-legged Samantha and Lee in the ballroom sequences.

Then along came the Latin dances and Matt Crosby, as Justin from Burslem, set his jaw, froze his shoulders, and started showing what he could do with his hips. His partner Jodie (Abigail Moore) was no longer following “as if we are one” – their goal was “to dance as one”. The two aspects of the play came together in a keen emotional crunch as we shared their tense excitement awaiting the judges’ decision, knowing that their marriage was as much at stake as their place in the competition.

Runs till Saturday, March 19

By John Hargreaves

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