I Don’t Dance (Online review)

I Don’t Dance (Online review)

Although I forward plan most of my online viewing and reviewing, every now and again I like to keep things fresh by taking pot luck. That was the mood I felt in yesterday as I stuck a virtual pin into Scenesaver’s ever growing collection of material and randomly selected I Don’t Dance. This was one of the four winners in the theatre category of the Capsule Festival which, last year, asked for submissions of short plays at the height of lockdown with the prize that they received being a filmed production in the early part of 2021; the only content stipulation was that the entries should NOT be about coronavirus.

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Instead, the play looks at another medical issue which continues to trouble a growing number of the population – type 2 diabetes – and the type of despair that can cause. The play’s set up is a simple one. Ralph has become housebound with the condition, exists in a degree of squalor and won’t even countenance going for regular hospital appointments fearing he may lose a leg. He relies on his local pharmacy for providing medication to ease his suffering and bike courier Jonny arrives with his latest prescription. After a moment of clumsiness, the latter finds himself summoning an ambulance much to the older man’s horror and Jonny decides to stay with him until the paramedics arrive. There is a (slightly contrived) wait for this to happen and in the meantime the two men get to know more about each other and their respective backgrounds.


It turns out that they have more in common than might have been supposed – both, for instance, have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. But where Ralph has become insular and despairing, Jonny is still fired with ambition hoping to become a professional cyclist. Ralph concocts a plan to help but Jonny is concerned that might bring him back into trouble with the authorities. Inevitably, and somewhat predictably, the chalk and cheese pairing find ways to mutually support each other; given that the play only has an hour to reach this point, this requires some suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience.

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Playwright Ron Fernee has provided some adept dialogue for the generationally and aspirationally distanced characters who circle each other warily and the central metaphor of the one legged tap dancer is a clever choice. There are some moments of wry humour but mostly the subject matter, especially in the second half, is bleak and should probably have come with some trigger warning notices for those affected by discussions of suicide. The downbeat mood is heightened/enhanced by the constant sound of rain outside, and the chiaroscuro lighting effects of Kevin James. Director Scott le Crass paces the production with a good sense of the rising stakes for the characters and is unafraid to leave silences to do their work.

John Rayment as Ralph and Daniel Rainford as Jonny are well cast and contrast nicely as the protagonists both of whom think they know it all but find that they have much to learn. Rayment has a bullish quality which lends credibility to his character but finds ways to reveal the lost and frightened soul  beneath the carapace. He is largely confined to a bed but still manages to physically impose his presence on the space. Rainford by contrast is able to move more freely suggesting a restless spirit; both his immediate circumstances and his life in general are causing a level of anxiety. The actor exudes an interesting mix of street smarts and naivety which make the character rather more insecure than his spell in “juve” might otherwise suggest.

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There are three other named winners of the Capsule Festival (click here) but as these are not available (at least I haven’t found that they are) it is impossible to compare and contrast. I Don’t Dance, though, seems a worthy recipient and will provide a good showcase piece for actors at drama festivals – at whichever point they can start operating again.

I Don’t Dance is available via Scenesaver – click here

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