Review: Out of Step
Image: Drayton Arms Theatre
Esme Lonsdale - Georgia
Kit Loyd - Luke
Louise Tozer - Julia
Xenia Klein - Louise
Eoin McKenna - Edward
Georgina Armfield - Jenny
Brian Marks - Jonathon
Out of Step is about a dysfunctional stepfamily, who are saying goodbye to their family home.
It is a touching comedy exploring nostalgia and rivalry, with a shocking plot twist.
As the siblings gather together for the final farewell, hidden secrets are revealed as we see how the family dynamic shifts.
An extension to the family may ruin their mother's dream of a perfect gathering.
The audience are asked questions about stigma, young relationships and generational differences.
Parents Jonathon and Julia have a brood of children amassed largely through their previous marriages.
Their sons and daughters - all young adults - are, therefore, not all tied to each other by inherited genes, being step brothers and sisters - well, at least in some cases since there are also natural siblings among them too.
That basic family set-up holds the key to an interesting idea which forms the central element of the plot in this play from writer Eddie Palmer, here getting its London debut.
To detail just what the matter is that stirs up feelings within this large and complex family would be to negate the surprise, so I'm not going to elaborate.
However, it does offer enough as a concept to provoke thought and serious consideration, as well as providing opportunities for naturally arising comedy.
The play is set in the context of the family moving house.
The packing cases are being filled ready for the impending departure from the home that Julia and her forebears have all inhabited.
So Julia wants to get all her tribe together for a final meet-up before they leave the house for good and it's then that the surprise is revealed.
Hamish Clayton's production kicks-off with an unusual song setting an interestingly off-beat kind of mood, even though the accompanying action seemed somewhat inscrutable.
But the repetition of the introductory music, and the same kind of accompanying action come the denouement, together with other issues, suggest that structure played a disproportionate role in the director's approach to the play.
The interval served only to interrupt the flow of proceedings, and the repetition of the scene we'd witnessed just before the break added to the feeling that the play is unnecessarily stretched-out.
The play could easily have been delivered without a formal break and without some of the lengthy scene changes - for example one where packing boxes are delivered to the stage.
That would have resulted in a tighter dramatic focus, whilst still allowing for an occasional musical interlude to provide gear changes at appropriate junctures.
Though there's an underlying streak of mild humour in the first part of the play - especially regarding the appearance in the world of Eoin McKenna's Edward - by the time the second half arrives, the humour has largely evaporated in favour of dramatic outbursts and anger that didn't always feel entirely natural and sometimes excessive, as in the case of Julia's histrionics.
Though there's ample thought-provoking meat in the central idea here, some issues never get explored sufficiently and some seem rather muddy and vaguely described.
For example, I couldn't help feeling that mother Julia would have had more than an inkling about the closeness of the bonds developing in her family and we don't learn nearly enough about Jonathon's character and his role as a father, nor why other members of the family came to rely so much on each other.
And the opportunities afforded by the house move for nostalgic revelations and insights were only lightly utilised, especially in terms of comedy.
In spite of my gripes, this debut work from UnTied Productions does embody an underlying vein of commitment and professionalism, suggesting considerable potential for the future, even if this show needs some modification to fulfil its real potential.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Drayton Arms Theatre
Our show listing for Out of Step
Read our reviews' policy