Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London

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I’ve never taken tranquillisers, but I have a nasty feeling they feel awfully like Richard Alfieri’s Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks. As feelgood shows go, this is among the most instantly forgettable. We’re in Florida. An elderly woman, Lily Harrison (Claire Bloom) hires a dance instructor, Michael Minelli (Billy Zane), to teach her dance in her own apartment. They both set out by telling a few lies – she that her husband is still alive, he that he is heterosexual, and so on. Gradually they grow more honest: it’s two-way psychotherapy, with a few phrases of dance thrown in.

What kept shaking me from the play’s narcotic wooze was how unserious the play is about dance teaching, and it is a former chief examiner in dance history who writes these words. Michael begins each lesson by throwing down “footprints” for his pupil to step on, then ignoring them. And he wraps up with a session on “contemporary dance”, which to starts with disco and then nips back to the 1960s to incorporate the twist and the hitchhiker. Does this pass as contemporary dance in Florida?

The West End premiere of this play might be more memorable if it were better directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman and if the role of the Southern matron were better played by Claire Bloom. Bloom is more fidgety, hoarse and ingratiating than this role needs, and she looks too healthy.

Seidelman blocks the action poorly. We keep noticing not that Lily needs to sit down out of fatigue but rather that she needs to keep rearranging herself. Zane moves and speaks well. But he should have refused to wear a sombrero with pink pompoms. Neither the playwright nor the director take this character for real, and at such moments it seems that neither does Zane.
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