Dance is a new play which originally premiered as a lockdown drama in 2020. Itfollows the story of teenager Kemi, who has been bullied and is struggling to feel good about herself. Kemi’s dad does all he can to be there for her and build her self-esteem.
The play is made up of a series of monologues taken in turns by the two characters. Whilst this arrangement works well in allowing the audience to experience the different perspectives, and the opposing viewpoints offer a lot of humour in certain places, I think it would be nice to have some more father-daughter interaction. I really like the fact that Matthew Morrison has chosen to explore the father-daughter relationship, as I haven’t seen it done often in new writing, and the moment the characters truly come alive for me is when they are finally in a scene together.
Kemi, played by Saffron Coomber, brings energy and liveliness to the role, portraying typical teenage gusto. She excels in keeping all sides of the audience engaged, and the set up works nicely, with lovely direction from Charlotte Peters. I particularly enjoy Kemi’s speech about laughter, and how if you have been bullied, you live in fear of it, despite most people perceiving laughter as a positive. I feel this is spot on, and indeed, it brings back some vivid memories of my own early teenage years and girls laughing at me in the school toilets.
Christopher Harper plays Dad, wearing a colourful, Hawaiian, typical ‘dad’ shirt and joggers, which works well. Harper immediately puts the audience at ease with his relaxed demeanour and natural grace. He accentuates Morrison’s admirable ‘embarrassing dad’ comedy lines, and there are several laugh out loud moments for the audience to enjoy. It is in the writing of the character of Dad, combined with Harper’s authentic delivery, where I feel the play truly shines.
At first while watching Dance, I’ll admit I am not quite sure of the point of the story or where it is going. As I reflect on it, however, I see that it is quite a powerful reflection of our modern society’s digital age and, as pointed out in the start of the piece by Kemi, ‘irreversibility’. I personally feel this is a real problem in society today and causes many young people in particular to suffer with mental health struggles, so I’m glad it is being highlighted in this piece.
Dance is a good play and offers us an example of how our current social media culture can have a negative impact on us. I do feel like the play leaves me wanting answers, but perhaps that is the point. Either way, it’s definitely worth a watch.
Dance is playing at the King’s Head until 17 July. For more information and tickets, see the King’s Head Theatre’s website.