On BBC Sounds
While there are many productions which have not made it onto a stage at all because of theatre and rehearsal room closures, some plays found themselves in the very difficult position of having to shut down just as they were about to open or in mid-run, almost without a moment’s notice. BBC Radio’s Lockdown Theatre Festival highlights such productions by broadcasting them with the original casts, albeit in an audio format only. The short Lockdown Theatre Festival consists of four productions, organised and curated by actor Bertie Carvel.
First up is Shoe Lady by EV Crowe, which was running at the Royal Court. It is virtually a monologue delivered by Katherine Parkinson. She plays Viv, a hard-pressed working mother who seems to have everything stacked against her. In a sideways take on Cinderella, she somehow loses a shoe one morning, but this does not lead to an eventual happy ending.
Rather she finds her life spinning out of control as bad things lead to worse – as a direct result she loses her job, is arrested by the police for shoplifting and is propelled into an ever more nightmarish and surreal world. Less Cinderella, then and more the old children’s rhyme “For want of a nail the shoe was lost…”
While it is an interesting play, once the setup is revealed it then takes a rather scattergun approach to where it is going. There are surreal touches (the curtains talk) which give it an Alice like quality, and Parkinson’s delivery is never less than arresting.
However, I felt it was in severe need of the visual dimension to bring it truly alive. Indeed, a child narrator has to be employed in order to keep us informed of who, what, why, when and so on; this just comes across as clumsy despite the disclaimer at the start that this is not a full-on audio adaptation. The introduction tells us that Viv spends a great deal of time on a moving travellator (a clever visual metaphor for the treadmill of modern daily life) but as we can’t see this, it is easy to forget that this is supposed to be the case. A review of the stage production from Time Out states that there is “a brilliantly choreographed fight”; in this audio version it becomes a couple of strained grunts and knowing there was supposed to be so much more merely makes us hanker for what we have missed. The piece is directed by the Royal Court’s Vicky Feathersone but, in all, it seems a slightly odd choice with which to open the season.
‘Never less than arresting’: @JohnChapman398 listens to #KatharineParkinson in @royalcourt premiere of EV Crowe’s #ShoeLady via @TheatreLockdown, curated by @BertieCarvel. Now on @BBCSounds. #radioreview #LockdownTheatreFestival #theatrelockdown