Theatre Review: Shoe Lady

I feel strange to review this production because it’s no longer running. Like lots of (most? all?) London theatres, the Royal Court has closed its doors.

I booked to see this show because of Katherine Parkinson. You may know her as Jen from The IT Crowd or Pauline from Doc Martin or Laura from Humans. She seems equally able to turn her skills to drama or comedy and the vague description of this play seemed to imply she would need to deliver both.

The plot seemed simple but potentially absurd – a woman loses a shoe. And yes, that was pretty much the whole of the plot. Viv (Parkinson) wakes up in her chaotic house, and after a battle with the curtains, heads out to work. But on the way she discovers she has lost a shoe. She doesn’t remember when it happened, but this is her only pair of shoes and she has a busy day of work ahead.

You have to admire Parkinson’s stamina. The play is essentially a one woman show, and she has the majority of the play’s dialogue over the 65 minute running time, while walking and running on a moving treadmill stage – all in one shoe. The rehearsal and preparation for this staging much have been intense, and I feel sad for the amount of effort put into a production that people now won’t get to see.

Parkinson delivers Viv with pathos and humour and even some slapstick comedy. It’s not an easy play, it tips you from laughing into melancholy and back again with not much warning.

Despite having a few minor issues with bits of the story (what woman has only one pair of shoes?), I did enjoy the play, although enjoying seems the wrong word when watching someone suffering as they try to get through their day with only one shoe. Viv’s determination to hold it all together, to pretend everything is fine, that one shoe is fine, while she is on the edge of breaking down, somehow feels appropriate for these times. It feels like we are all wearing one shoe but pretending we have two.

The Royal Court is handily located right next to Sloane Square tube station, and compared to some of the other theatres I have been to this year, it has very comfortable seats. It often stages non-mainstream or new plays, so although not a “West End” theatre, it’s worth to keep it in mind as a London theatre option.

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