Monday 16 March 2020 12:21 pm

Shoe Lady at Royal Court review: Surreal, strange story fails to sweep us off our feet

The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson stars as Viv, or Shoe Lady, in E.V. Crowe’s latest piece at the Royal Court.

The premise is simple but effective; lady has two shoes; lady loses one shoe; lady realises how much lost shoe stands for; lady tries to live without lost shoe but cannot.

Shoes, of course, come in a pair and we need both of them; to walk from A to B, to take on the day, to achieve what we set out to accomplish. Without both, we’re a bit stuck. Without both, we’re on the outside.

And so Viv’s day, and by extension, life, begins to hinge on the recovery of her lost shoe, an idea she comes to realise as being rather silly, but an idea from which she cannot part.

It’s a smart commentary on society, commercialism, and the psychological implications of being on the fringes of an already fragile world in which one small tip can upset the balance.

Read more: Blithe Spirit at Duke of York’s Theatre review: Jennifer Saunders shines in this playful ghost story

Crowe’s use of language is dotted with real moments of dark humour and lucidity, and has a rhythm to it which is effective in parts, but which also, at times, feels constrained, and leads to what feels like an inhibited performance by Parkinson.

Viv is intended to be complex, but that complexity feels tamed, those depths under-explored. I wanted to know Viv better, to step into her one shoe, but felt little connection with her. Lacklustre production values also detract from any sense of immersion; the set is basic, and costume and music seem like ill-conceived afterthoughts.

The push for this to be some kind of surreal and strange piece, Black Mirror-esque even, feels forced, and unfortunately, rather more akin to a disorganised sketch show.

The intelligent-enough premise has promise, but this production had little to sweep me off my feet, with or without shoes.