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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Peacock Theatre     Spring 2011

A program of dance built on the theme of shoes is such a great idea it's surprising it hasn't been done before. And if this show devised by Richard Thomas isn't as consistently brilliant as the concept, it still offers enough good moments to make for a fun evening.

The songs by Thomas are generally witty, if sometimes straining a bit too obviously to be so, and the choreography, mainly by Stephen Mear, with contributions by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Aletta Collins, Kate Prince and Mark Smith, ranges from delightful down to serviceable.

Typical numbers - some with dance dominating, some with song - include one on the seductive power of shoe shopping, instructions on how to walk in stilettos, a chorus of nuns singing hymns made up of brand names, and the inevitable nod to Imelda Marcos.

The guest choreographers fare best. Cherkaoui's salute to shoemaker-to-the-stars Salvatore Ferragamo dresses folk dancers in formal clothes for a perky number that is witty and real fun to watch.

Kate Prince imagines a wearer of Hush Puppies as a cool bed-hopping lover who leaves a trail of women writhing sinuously in lust and loneliness, and the allure of  sneakers (trainers to the Brits) is expressed in dance that combines hip-hop moves with Broadway discipline. And in the nun number, Mark Smith smoothly incorporates sign language into his dancers' moves.

Stephen Mear's Violently Come Dancing is a loving tribute to the Hollywood-flamenco of 1940s Technicolor movies, and his mock salute to the Eighties has his dancers generating lots of energy as they tap their hearts out in glam-rock platform shoes.

Other numbers, such as the opening Brief History of Shoes and the darkly comic history of a cursed pair of wedding slippers, reduce the dancers to backup to the songs, and there are a half-dozen quick crossovers in which a dancer appears in cowboy boots, clown shoes, ski boots and the like, establishes the sight gag and then gets off.

More than a dozen dancers, most with theatre dance rather than classical training, show off their versatility in the wide variety of styles, while four singers alternate between providing backing to the dancers and coming to the fore themselves.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Shoes - Peacock Theatre 2011