BATS Theatre, Wellington

13/03/2008 - 29/03/2008

Production Details

It’s not easy finding your perfect pair.

Felicity loves shoes and there’s about 115 pairs in her shoe cupboard … 115 pairs her husband secretly liked to wear when he was home alone and feeling … domestic.

Sitting majestically atop a mountain of shoes, Felicity looks back on her life land-marked by milestone footwear. Her ballet slippers, first date heels, wedding shoes, her daughter’s first shoes … and that pair she first found her husband wearing.

"Everyone knows that feeling of looking at someone else’s relationship and thinking ‘they’re so perfect together’, or ‘they know each other so well’… often those perceptions are so wrong! That was the spark that began SHOES" says writer Jamie Burgess.

Shoes is a touching comedy that examines why someone stays in a relationship when the proverbial hits the fan, a journey into breaking down taboos and social norms on what you can and can’t wear or feel.

Slip into your favourite footwear and spend the night in SHOES, a funny, poignant and ultimately moving examination of a ‘normal’ kiwi family.

Previews: Tues 11 and Wed 12
Main season: Thurs 13 – Sat 29 March February (no show Sun/Mon or Easter)
Time: 8.30pm
Tickets: $18 full / $13 concession & groups 8+ Previews: $10
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Cheryl Amos, Leighton Cardno, Max Hardy, Bea Lee-Smith and Laura Velvin

Shoes fits bill

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 19th Mar 2008

On first seeing the set for Shoes I wondered how on earth Jamie Burgess was going to keep an audience entertained with only a couch made out of shoe boxes and a small mountain of shoes which covers about half of the back wall of Bats’ stage.

The play starts with Felicity half buried in the mountain rather like Winnie up to her waist in sand in Beckett’s Happy Days. While shoes are very much part of his gentle, probing comedy, it is really about family life and the ties that bind – or in this case the shoes that bind.

Felicity (Cheryl Amos) is a Kiwi Imelda Marcos even though she has a cupboard of only 112 pairs of shoes. She is married to the decent, perfectly normal Leon (Leighton Cardno) and they have a much-loved daughter Kate (Laura Velvin) who eventually marries the decent, perfectly normal Adam (Max Hardy).

Then there’s Felicity’s friend Helen (Bea Lee-Smith) who is in love with Leon but Leon is in love with his wife. To say more would be to give too much away but Jamie Burgess has created a touching love story which, although a mite too drawn-out, bristles with dry, off-beat humour, well observed characters, some good plot twists and an unsentimental way of showing emotional warmth between people.

He has been particularly well served by his cast with Cheryl Amos and Laura Velvin giving lovely performances as mother and daughter, and Max Hardy and Leighton Cardno are hilarious in a scene of mutual male embarrassment, while Bea Lee-Smith scores as the loveless Helen and a quirky sales assistant.


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Love in its sole

Review by Lynn Freeman 19th Mar 2008

Felicity sits atop a mountain of shoes when we meet her, as she looks back fondly and candidly at her life with husband Leon.  From their stumbling first dates to a thirty year plus marriage and the raising of their daughter Kate – there is a lot of story to get through in Shoes

This is hugely ambitious, a large story told in under two hours – too long and perhaps a little too ambitious. But Jamie Burgess is a surprising and gifted writer, no question. 

Bronwyn Tweddle’s excellent cast are a mix of the experienced – Cheryl Amos as Felicity and Shortland Street‘s Leighton Cardin as Leon, and relative newcomers – Laura Velvin as Kate and Max Hardy has her partner Adam.

Bea Lea-Smith has two support roles, the thwarted Helen and a shoes sales girl. Leon and Felicity share more than their daughter, they share a passion for shoes, women’s shoes, and that discovery creates ripples in their marriage.  It bends rather than breaks, a testament to their love for each other. 


Bea Lee-Smith April 15th, 2008

Thank-you for your review Lynn. Please note, for future reference, that my name is spelt: Bea Lee-Smith. Cheers. [Now corrected - ed]

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Try it on, it may well suit you

Review by John Smythe 15th Mar 2008

From atop a shoe mountain, her memories provoked by specific items of footwear, Felicity tells us the story of her life as a sweetheart, wife and mother. By setting himself this discipline, playwright Jamie Burgess has fashioned a tightly constructed play of surprising depth, wit and humanity.

Apart from her inordinate love of shoes – 112 pairs including the morning slippers – Felicity, warmly played by Cheryl Amos, is an everyday Kiwi wife and Mum.

The shoes she wore to a small town ball take us back to the night Leon, a regular kind of Kiwi guy embodied heart and soul by Leighton Cardno, is dancing with their mutual friend Helen when he takes an incurable fancy to Felicity. Bea Lee-Smith moves beautifully as the otherwise romantically challenged Helen, and doubles neatly as a classic Kiwi shoe shop-girl.  

It’s well after they are married that Leon turns out to have his own particular thing for shoes. A private thing. Harmless but unusual.

Their teenage-to-twenties daughter Kate, superbly realised by Laura Velvin, moves from intransigent intolerance through love and acceptance to the ‘itchy feet’ state of a young wife stressed by a husband who refuses to give her a reason to blow her top: a special moment of human insight here.

Coming late into the story, Kate’s boyfriend then husband, Adam, is distilled to his comic essence by Max Hardy. The high standard of acting and inter-acting, and the clear connection to the play and its themes, suggest valuable input and facilitation from director Bronwyn Tweddle.  

To reveal more about the story would spoil it but trust me, it resonates well beyond its specific circumstances to focus on aspects of relationships and family life that are common to us all yet rarely explored this way in drama.

And lest you think it sounds too cute or saccharine, it’s not. Burgess lets his characters be very human in confronting non-conformity and threats to the status quo, and there is a point at which the whole shoe thing achieves an intimacy that renders interest in the daughter’s shoes perverse if not perverted.  

Put it this way: Amos also does anger an upset very well. Enough said. Try it on, it may well suit you.

Accolades to Blair Ryan for his set design and construction (the shoe mountain and a sofa made of shoe boxes); Marcus McShane for his lighting and Deb McGuire for their operation; Lisa Hefford for costumes, props and stage management.  


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