Boot – Theatre Review

BOOT is a taut and sometimes uncomfortable play. It covers some pretty dark subject areas, yet always maintains an underlying sense of humour. Plenty of twists and turns to debate afterwards.

Yes, it makes for tough viewing at times and leaves you wanting to have a shower afterwards. And, yes, it’s challenging, but that’s what good theatre should be.

It’s written by the talented Eliza Williams and produced by PigWig Productions,  the company Williams founded to champion new work and the ‘re-emerging artist’.  We need more creative forces like Eliza.

Williams (naturally) plays the rather chilling Karen who has agreed to meet Emma (Kate O’Rourke) at a school reunion. A reunion? Really? Pull the other one.

Emma is a seemingly jolly mother of two who can’t stop talking and comes dressed to impress with a sharp pair of heels. Life, it appears, has been quite good to her. But, maybe, she sees everything through rose tinted spectacles.

Karen is an altogether different kettle of fish. Wearing tracksuit bottoms, she looks like she is dressed for a night in watching the television, not a night out. More Coronation Street than finding out what old school friends have been up to.

It soon becomes obvious why. Karen, her eyes rolling and looking skywards more often than staring at her old school friend, is on a mission. She has got Emma out on false pretences.

The tale unfolds – with Emma finding out (rather alarmingly) that Karen has been stalking her for some considerable time. But for what reason? Is she in love with her?

Photos by Matt Hunter

Shaun, Emma’s husband who we never see (thank goodness), is the link. While Emma has been bringing up their  two boys almost single handedly, Shaun has not been the perfect father she thought he was – not working all hours (as he claims) to put bread on the table including business trips to far flung places such as Hong Kong.  Suspicious or what? Not as far as naive and doting Emma is concerned.

Naughty Shaun has been living a double life – maybe triple or quadruple lives – and Karen knows all too well about it. Lying and cheating partners every which way.

Jealousy and revenge both bubble to the surface and Emma soon realises that Shaun is nearer than she thinks – and in a compartment of a car normally reserved for luggage (think title of play).

It doesn’t end pleasantly and there’s ambiguity as to how Emma feels about it.

Sixty minutes long,  the play rattles along at a pace resembling a Japanese bullet train. Both O’Rourke and Williams are outstanding.

O’Rourke’s motor mouth Emma versus Williams’s rather chilling Karen. You want to put an arm around O’Rourke’s Emma and scream: ‘wise up’.

In contrast, you cringe at Williams’s scary  Karen. You certainly wouldn’t want to get into a car driven by Karen. Nor go anywhere near her if she had a wok in her hand.

Running  at the lovely Lion & Unicorn Theatre (located above a pub down a residential side street in London’s Kentish Town) until March 5, Boot is well worth a butcher’s. It’s as taut as a bowstring, nicely building to a crescendo.

Williams should be mighty proud of what she has put together. On Wednesday night (March 2), the play was thrillingly received by a packed audience. And rightly so. Put your boots on and pay the Lion & Unicorn Theatre a visit.

Title photo by Matt Hunter


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