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A CurtainUp London Review
Shoe Lady

" "Dammit I want a wife."
— Viv
Shoe Lady
Katherine Parkinson as Viv
(Photo: Manual Harlan)
EV Crowe is a graduate of the Royal Court young writer's programme and her latest play is hard to fathom as it is experiential and about feelings delivered by a monologue. I find it akin to wondering in terms of art what is the meaning of a pile of bricks? It is harder work to think about the pile of bricks than it is to look at a Gainsborough and say "Very Nice Painting, Dear." However, the pile of bricks has a stronger multiple reaction: anger at the expense, laughter at the banality, or confusion as to how to interpret it.

Katherine Parkinson is a very talented actor and easy to relate to. The situation here is that Viv loses a shoe on the way to work when she is already late at the estate agents, where she shows prospective people round properties for sale. She is not succeeding at her job which pays commission on sales. The monologue is her, mostly unspoken, thoughts.

Emma Crowe is a feminist and at one point Viv (Katherine Parkinson) when contemplating all she has to do, says she wishes she had a wife – that luxury middle class men may have in our paternalistic society. Increasingly middle class women, actually all women except for some of the ultra rich, also hold jobs as well as taking primary responsibility for childcare and running a home.

Some of the description of Viv's lack of spending power is to criticise her twice daily visits to that upmarket supermarket Waitrose. The idea being that it is middle classness which makes her devoted to Waitrose rather than trying less expensive outlets like Lidl and Aldi or, God forbid, Morrison's!

The result is that like Mr Magnolia, she has only one boot, or in Viv's case, only one shoe she can wear to work. Failing to stop with one foot uncovered she cuts her foot and it bleeds. She chooses shoes in a shop but her credit card is maxed out. Is Viv's predicament down to her incompetence at economic management or the oppressive rule of entitled men? You decide because you will have decided already.

A travellator is used for the motion of scenes where Viv travels to work. The set is three blank spaces, the wall exposed by the drop of the old, worn out curtains and two holes with unseen stairs down. These expanses could be seen as about to suck her into the abyss.

I found it easier to appreciate Emma Crowe's poetry off the printed page with no visual or sound distraction and the opportunity to return to re-read. This is not to diminish Katherine Parkinson's outstanding performance but to express my own limitation with the complexity of the stream of Viv's thoughts.

Vicky Featherstone directs this play about women struggling with the demands of everyday. "It's incredibly hard isn't it. To try to stay afloat. It's incredibly hard not to sink to the bottom."

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Shoe Lady
Written by EV Crowe
Directed by Vicky Featherstone
Starring: Katherine Parkinson
With: Tom Kanji, Kayla Meikle, Archer Brandon, Beatrice White
Designer: Chloe Lamford
Lighting Design: Natasha Chivers
Movement Director: Sasha Milavic Davies
Running time: 65 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 21st March 2020
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 10th March 2020 at the Royal Court Sloane Square London SW1W 8AS (Tube: Sloane Square)
Index of reviewed shows still running

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Shoe Lady