REVIEW: ‘Shoes’ by Sebastian Byrne

Written & Directed by Sebastian Byrne
Hamilton Fringe Festival 2016
@ The Meteor / 3-5 March

So I saw Shoes at The Meteor last night, the debut production of both director/writer Sebastian Byrne and creative collective Gnarly Teapot.

Let me start by saying that writing a play of any length is difficult at the best of times. I can’t even imagine how stressful it must be to be the writer, director and lead actor of a show. I grind my teeth into oblivion with just one job to do!

I’d also like to point out that if it weren’t for the ambitions and risks of young people like Gnarly Teapot, Fringe theatre in Hamilton wouldn’t continue to flourish the way it does currently.

Set in a fast-paced night club, the experience began with a stamp from Tim Kapoor’s disinterested Bouncer. Stoked quips were exchanged between my friend and I about not getting ID’d, and I was instantly sold on the premise. Shoes shows great promise with some accomplished moments of depth, comedy, and relatability.

Unlucky-in-love Ryan, played by Andrew Lyall brought a natural touch that the play needs, even with opening night jitters.

A backlit window arrangement was a clever direction to head in by designer Evie McHugh. (Unfortunately, I was witness to a three-second moment of the director’s shadow slowly lifting a finger to his lips to ‘shush’ another actor; which can be a danger of director doubling up as cast.)

We then line up to embark upon many of the strangers one expects to meet in a play about a night club. The girl whose only goal is to get laid; the group of girls with the guy for his promise of free drinks; the weird guy who’s going to end up getting with the girl who wants to get laid…

Despite some of the cliche, Shoes wouldn’t have been complete without its array of recognisable miscreants.

Then there’s the never-in-a-million-years love story… Between Sam (Alice McConnochie) and Dominic (Sebastian Byrne), the story is underdeveloped or possibly rushed. Alice is beautiful, and she delivers one of the best stage slaps I’ve ever seen, but her character is annoying and unresolved.

Between Ryan and The Foreign Girl (Toni-Elizabeth Green), the story is rather sweet, and as audience members we get it, but we don’t buy it. – Spanner-in-the-works/threat to this love story/unnamed cameo character was played by Liam Hinton, whom I would like to have seen switch roles with Sebastian who aesthetically would have been a better fit for the part.

Usually I find casting Antony Aiono for his comedic ability to be somewhat arbitrary, but as the title character he was a shining light in the play’s opening of dodgy dialogue that didn’t quite encapsulate the way young people speak to each other.

But, the question that sings loudest in my head though: WHY IS IT CALLED SHOES?!?! Obviously the character and the punch line… But, is that it?

While it seems like I may have griped my way through this critique, I think Gnarly Teapot should be really proud of what they’ve put together, and everything they’ve learned along the way.

I for one, will be watching the progress of these youngsters with great enthusiasm, and encourage anyone else to do the same.



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