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March 24, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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Shoes is the story of Felicity who has 112 pairs of shoes (well, 113 if you include her morning slippers) and her husband Leon, who secretly likes to wear these shoes.

A giant pile of shoes which Felicity sits atop and delivers her many direct address monologues and a couch made out of shoeboxes provide the set for a play which shifts back and forth in time and covers the thirty years of Leon and Felicity’s relationship. Flashbacks to the 1970s are clearly defined by the great costumes evoking this era such as Leon’s pale blue bellbottom suit and paisley shirt combo.

Leighton Cardno as Leon manages the challenge of playing a character who switches between quite different stages of his life very well; he gives a consistently strong performance and the scene in which he wordlessly first tries on a pair of high heels was a highlight.

I enjoyed the physicality of Laura Velvin as their daughter Kate initially in terms of the self-aware use of her feet, but this got lost as her character got older. I would have liked it to continue, however, because it was another way of exploring feet and making the audience aware of them beyond her father’s fetish.

Max Hardy achieves pure awkwardness as the son-in-law when he first discovers Leon vacuuming in high heels. The way these men dealt with such a bizarre encounter seemed to make the only comment on stereotypical New Zealand males as they stood there gulping down their cans of Tui from start to finish. In fact, apart from the cans of Tui and the bottles of Double Brown this play could have been set anywhere in the Western world; whether or not this actually matters is admittedly a point of personal belief on what New Zealand theatre should or should not be.

Bea Lee-Smith fills the roles of Helen/Sales Girl with much humour and clearly defines both characters through voice and mannerisms. Her attempted seduction of Leon with a shoe was especially amusing.

So in terms of the performances given by the actors and the relationships developed between them Shoes was successful, but I had problems with the play itself. I was disappointed by the ending which seemed to be a writer’s easy out. After a long build up to the one scene in which the play actually gets into more complex issues the ending seemed very simplistic and slightly melodramatic.

I also felt that the extreme love of shoes that Felicity (Cheryl Amos) is supposed to have wasn’t developed enough. Felicity tells him the shoes are HER special thing and that by wearing them he has ruined that, but apart from reminiscing over a couple of old pairs this love is not fully developed enough for us to really believe it.

This comedy lived up to its genre by generating many laughs on opening night, but in terms of exploring the interesting and valuable concept of a man crossing boundaries of expected/ accepted behaviour I felt this play failed to really explore its potential beyond the family’s reactions to the discovery.

Overall, I guess Shoes wasn’t the best fit for me personally but try it on for size and you may well buy it.

Written by Jamie Burgess
Directed by Bronwyn Tweddle
Bats Theatre
Mar 13 – 29

by Cherie Jacobson

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