Theatre review: Tap Dancing with Jean-Paul Sartre, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Tap Dancing with Jean-Paul Sartre is a beguiling show. Picture: Leslie Black
Tap Dancing with Jean-Paul Sartre is a beguiling show. Picture: Leslie Black
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IT’S ALL charm, this brief but beguiling Play, Pie And Pint show from writer James Runcie and director Marilyn Imrie, inspired by a line from a song in the film Funny Face. The place is Paris in the 1950s; and Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire are in town filming.

When we first meet them, they’re rehearsing their dance moves, with the recently widowed Fred taking a largely paternal interest in Audrey’s progress as a dancer, and in the state of her long-distance showbiz marriage.

The stakes are raised a little, though, when the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre comes to call, and begins not only to relate the sheer existential joy of their tap routines to his own philosophy of being and nothingness, but to make fierce advances to Audrey, in a style so stereotypically French that the audience can only laugh.

He’s particularly fond of the song It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing; and by the end – when he persuades Fred and Audrey to give a tap demonstration during one of his Sorbonne lectures – the sheer delight of the show’s dance of ideas becomes irresistible.

Ashley Smith is sharp and sweet as Audrey, Darren Brownlie superb as Fred, bringing the dimension of inspired tap-dance the show needs; and although Kevin Lennon’s Sartre is probably more twinkly, self-mocking and gifted on the dance-floor than the real Sartre ever was, his performance makes sense of James Runcie’s gorgeous little joke of a play, and sends us all home determined to create our own meaning, with a joyful tap of the feet.


Oran Mor, Glasgow, today, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh next week, and the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 24-29 September.