Saturday, 17 March 2007

Someone Else’s Shoes

8th March 2007

Drew Pautz’s debut play is described as a free market comedy and is indeed very funny at times. Its first scene – set in the Cistine Chapel - starts with fast overlapping dialogue containing plenty of laughs. However, things slow down as the play progresses. There are fewer laughs and little analysis or critique of globalisation.

The play’s central idea is that everything in the modern world is a commodity. The story involves the rather unlikely collision of a former student, an artist, an anti-globalisation activist and two brothers who run an international footwear company. One of the brothers is dedicated to business, the other is a patron of the arts. The clash – if that’s not too strong a description - is one between exploiters, protesters and exploited.

Pautz gives his characters some depth – they are not mere ciphers. The dedicated capitalist for example is more sympathetic than his potentially sleazy arts-patron brother is. Indeed, the latter, by buying up all the artist’s work, demonstrates a greater commitment to exploitation. He both owns and removes her from the art world she’s keen to inhabit. She and her work become the patron’s playthings.

The artist’s boyfriend, somewhat fortuitously, gets employed by the capitalist brother. The final character is an anti globalisation ‘activist’ who become the former student’s lover and yet she also exploits him in her battle against global capitalism.

However, there is a core of coincidence in the play that leads to a feeling of implausibility. And although there are arguments about globalisation and direct action, nothing much comes out of them. The wants and desires of the individual seem to have replaced those of any social grouping or class – there is no wider political or moral context.

Someone Else’s Shoes is generally well performed with Patrick Drury as Richard – the more conservative brother - particularly engaging. Steven Pacey ‘s art collecting Adam could have been sleazier. Of the women, Emily Bruni’s artist Nadine is both irritating and engaging while Denise Gough’s Mary is an amusing but unsatisfactory voice of protest. Jonjo O’Neill’s Jed is more rounded veering between the sympathetic and irritating. The staging is slick and minimal with settings suggested by just a few props.

The ending seems down beat and offhand. Jed and Nadine apparently re-committing to each other, but failing to acknowledge it – they appear to be getting together again by default. This suggests that to do anything else would either mean committing to or against globalisation – something this comedy doesn’t quite want to do.

Soho Theatre until 7th April

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