Modern Dance for Beginners

Sarah Phelps
Soho Theatre

This two-hander is a comedy about sex. It is one of many plays in London at the moment that takes as an initial basis that of La Ronde. Two actors play four different characters each in this case, and there is some interlinking between the six scenes.

The play starts promisingly as what appeared to be a husband and wife arrive in the hotel bedroom above their reception. It quickly becomes clear that this is a misconception and that, in fact, Nicola Walker's character, Frances, is not the bride but the bridesmaid who is still desperately in love with the groom. She is quickly firing off witty one-liners about the bride, her family and friends and their attitude to smoking.

Unfortunately, the male characters played by Justin Salinger are almost completely undifferentiated and it is quite difficult to establish who is who. In addition, because they are rather clichéd they do not allow the
feisty females to develop.

Within Soutra Gilmour’s very busy but effective set, various different views of sex are put forward but the spinelessness of the males of the species remain a given, even when the women are begging.

This play shows that Sarah Phelps does have a talent to amuse but, all too often, it seems to get lost in some rather weak plotting and characterisation. This is rather hard on Nicola Walker who plays the female characters with some gusto.

The same applies, to an extent, to Jonathan Lloyd whose direction is particularly effective in the scene setting and the whirlwind changes of clothing between scenes that add greatly to the comedy.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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