September 9, 2010 6:33 pm

Shoes, Sadler’s Wells, London

Oppressive design leads to a tedious experience

The idea of a two-hour song-and-dance show about shoes may have seemed intoxicatingly clever and inviting, and the words “Mme Marcos” and “Ferragamo” may have flashed through the minds of all those involved in the event now on view at Sadler’s Wells, but there is more to the game than that. Yes, shoes can be fascinating and, for the fetishist, an all-consuming pleasure. (Sudden memory of the balletomanes in St Petersburg in the 1840s who so adored the ballerina Marie Taglioni that they acquired a pair of her dancing slippers, had them cooked and served with a sauce, and ate them. As a culinary note, I report that I have held a pair of Taglioni’s shoes, and they were light as feathers, and plainly edible under the right ecstatic circumstances.) But, as an excuse for singing and, chiefly, dancing, shoes need more wit and more ingenuity – like the wit and ingenuity in their design – than this lumpen entertainment offers.

That, on Tuesday night, Shoes proved so unrelentingly tedious an event is curious indeed. It is written and composed by Richard Thomas, who gave us the jolly and anarchic Jerry Springer: The Opera. It is directed and choreographed by the gifted Stephen Mear, with additional dances from Aletta Collins, Kate Prince, Mark Smith, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (whose garden of legs and well-shod feet in homage to Ferragamo shows an imagination seriously lacking elsewhere in the evening).

There is oppressive design in which the shoe features with heavily sequinned insistence, and there is a band coping with an unmemorable score, and over-determined amplification of two chanteuses who figure largely in the action and sing (thanks to their microphones) with ear-bruising power. And there are a dozen dancers, willing, energetic, variously and obviously (given the title of the show) shod, and feverishly trying to persuade us that it is all the greatest fun.

Your critic did not succumb to their untiring blandishments. Shoes of all sorts were on view, from sparkling boots and highest-heeled cripplers to skis and waders and the inevitable trainers. Some 29 incidents were proposed by the programme. One, involving goats, was rather jokey. (

2 star rating
) www.sadlerswells.com

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