‘SHOES’ IN REVIEW
By John Smythe – theatreview.org.nz
From atop a shoe mountain, her memories provoked by specific items of footwear, Felicity tells us the story of her life as a sweetheart, wife and mother. By setting himself this discipline, playwright Jamie Burgess has fashioned a tightly constructed play of surprising depth, wit and humanity.
Apart from her inordinate love of shoes – 112 pairs including the morning slippers – Felicity, warmly played by Cheryl Amos, is an everyday Kiwi wife and Mum.
The shoes she wore to a small town ball take us back to the night Leon, a regular kind of Kiwi guy embodied heart and soul by Leighton Cardno, is dancing with their mutual friend Helen when he takes an incurable fancy to Felicity. Bea Lee-Smith moves beautifully as the otherwise romantically challenged Helen, and doubles neatly as a classic Kiwi shoe shop-girl.
It’s well after they are married that Leon turns out to have his own particular thing for shoes. A private thing. Harmless but unusual.
Their teenage-to-twenties daughter Kate, superbly realised by Laura Velvin, moves from intransigent intolerance through love and acceptance to the ‘itchy feet’ state of a young wife stressed by a husband who refuses to give her a reason to blow her top: a special moment of human insight here.
Coming late into the story, Kate’s boyfriend then husband, Adam, is distilled to his comic essence by Max Hardy. The high standard of acting and inter-acting, and the clear connection to the play and its themes, suggest valuable input and facilitation from director Bronwyn Tweddle.
To reveal more about the story would spoil it but trust me, it resonates well beyond its specific circumstances to focus on aspects of relationships and family life that are common to us all yet rarely explored this way in drama.
And lest you think it sounds too cute or saccharine, it’s not. Burgess lets his characters be very human in confronting non-conformity and threats to the status quo, and there is a point at which the whole shoe thing achieves an intimacy that renders interest in the daughter’s shoes perverse if not perverted.
Put it this way: Amos also does anger an upset very well. Enough said. Try it on, it may well suit you.
Accolades to Blair Ryan for his set design and construction (the shoe mountain and a sofa made of shoe boxes); Marcus McShane for his lighting and Deb McGuire for their operation; Lisa Hefford for costumes, props and stage management.
To purchase a licenced copy of the play:
I always loved writing fantasy, especially for young people… so here’s a sample of an idea I’m still working on…