After a rather desperate dash to the Peacock Theatre my cousin and I were very relieved to find we had two minutes to spare before the performance of SHOES. It is the newest offering from Sadler’s Wells' dance company extraordinaire, and quite simply takes us through the ages commenting on the progress of footwear, slipper to stiletto, and illustrates how our culture has evolved into the shoe frenzied lot we are today.
The Peacock Theatre, near Holborn is spacious and provides well for movement productions. And this show certainly needs space, designer Tom Pye has created a very ambitious set with many complex props coming on and off stage for each number. The structure of the show immediately struck me as being a little bizarre, with a lack of sensible story. The musical is a collage of short and sweet dance numbers, some of which are better than others, but as a whole the show lacks coherence.
The cast includes four singers who impressively perform most of the show's music. At the start I found them a little too shrill for my taste but as they warmed up they improved and did, on the whole, provide some enjoyable commentary. The songs tend to drag on, much of the repetition is not needed. Having said that I absolutely love the final song before the intermission, ‘Desire: The Brand’. A group of women dressed as nuns sing a hypnotising hymn-like piece about the most popular shoe designers: Jimmy Choo, Prada, Louboutin etc. It is actually quite beautiful, and amusing too, thanks to clever lyrics and perfect timing.
The dancing is exciting and thoughtfully choreographed by Stephen Mear and his team. They use the variety of footwear to the best of their ability and manage to include several different types of dance... the tap dancing in platforms is particularly inventive. The sequence, ‘Old Shoes’ stands out in the second half, a hysterical number about a pair of wedding shoes passed through the generations.
This is an interesting concept for a show, and a lot of work has clearly gone into the production, though I fear it is a show that really needs to find its feet before it succeeds completely.
SHOES continues until 3 April 2011. Book here.