WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE? Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) RUNTIME: 65 minutes (no interval)
WHEN? 14/2 (matinee), runs to 21/3/20
Author E V Crowe is a graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme ‘super group’ and here tells the story of working mother Viv who loses a shoe on her way to work as an estate agent as her life begins to unravel.
- Read on for reasons including how The IT Crowd‘s Parkinson needs to be at her most engaging here
A little confession to start: we live in Blackheath, south east London, and Parkinson is one half of the village’s most famous showbusiness couple with husband Harry Peacock (Channel 4’s Toast Of London).
We’ve always loved Parkinson as an actress, whether it was on TV in Channel 4’s comedy The IT Crowd or drama Humans, and she was especially hilarious when we last saw her on stage in Dead Funny at the Vaudeville and for her Olivier-nominated turn as a housewife reliving the 50s in the National Theatre production of Home, I’m Darling.
Directed by Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone, Shoe Lady is about how life is so precarious that it can take something so seemingly inconsequential as losing a shoe to turn everything on its head.
Viv is far from being a Cinderella and as we get to spend a little time with her and walk in her shoe as it were we realise that she’s an everywoman who could be anyone of us and behind her disarming sense of humour lies a steely resolve to do whatever it takes to get through the day.
Parkinson carries a great deal of the show but this isn’t a monologue and the least successful elements of Crowe’s original piece are the elements which surround its main character.
Particularly difficult is Kayla Meikle’s Elaine who is similarly without one shoe, happy to sit down and drink cider, but is an object of derision for our middle class heroine.
Tom Kanji who is predominantly wordless as Viv’s husband yet does get to utter some lines as two very different sets of curtains is slightly better served but this very much feels as though it’s a play relying wholeheartedly on how wonderfully engaging and endearing, albeit occasionally baffling, its protagonist can be.
Is it worth a look during this short run? Yes, because Parkinson is one of the UK’s best comedy actresses and Crowe’s clearly an author with talent to look out for. And do we think it will transfer to the West End? Probably not.