Curious Shoes

Curious Shoes is a show that's unashamedly dominated by the perceived needs of its target audience, people living with dementia, and those who care and support them. Devised by Magdalena Schamberger, it's a gentle, amusing, and uncomplicated hour of movement and song; a succession of skits performed with smiles and wide-eyed tenderness, held together not so much by a narrative arc but a repeated refrain of "Let's Go!" that promises some good times ahead.

This is a show full of care, tenderness and understanding.

There's a strong whiff of Hollywood iconography too, with the show's four characters each based on film stars for whom shoes played an important role: there is Fred (Astaire, in the likes of Funny Face); Bette (Davis, in Now Voyager), Charlie (Chaplin, in City Lights) and Vicky (Page, in The Red Shoes). We're all on first name terms here, each of us in the audience given a name-badge on the way in; this enables "Charlie" and "Bette" in particular to welcome their new friends, to share names and the unexpected memories triggered by them. It's an appropriately low-key start to proceedings.

I do find reviewing this show a tad problematic; I’m not, as yet, part of its intended audience, but from the reactions of those around me, Curious Shoes clearly reassured and inspired happiness among its largely female audience on the day of this review. To be honest, I found the constant smiles on the performers' faces at times unsettling, occasionally looking more like light concussion than genuine pleasure, but their interaction with audience members was genuine and trusting, not least during one popular section in which we were encouraged to help unpack bags and boxes full of various artefacts and accessories.

A tender Tim Licata and charming Christina Liddell, as "Charlie" and "Bette", held the stage for much of the show, with invaluable support from the lean, hat-doffing Colin Moncrieff and enchanting Nicolette Macleod as "Fred" and "Vicky"; each resplendent in outfits which clearly defined them by different colours—Blue, Yellow, Green and Red, respectively. Macleod in particular contributed some genuinely touching songs, both as singer and musician—some new, others familiar and echoed among the audience. It’s a gentle journey, with moments of stillness and occasional slapstick, as our four characters get tied up in knots, both physically and emotionally.

I did find the show slight too long; its undoubtedly "relaxed" pace took some getting used to. But, again, I'm arguably NOT the best person to judge; it held people's attention and, at the end, most audience members seemed in no hurry to leave, happy to chat with the performers for hours more. This is a show full of care, tenderness and understanding; a beautifully interactive response to a growing need among our ageing population.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


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The Blurb

A professional cross arts performance for people living with dementia, their loved ones and those who care for them. Created and directed by Magdalena Schamberger, Curious Shoes is inspired by her observation that many people, particularly those in more advanced stages of dementia, view the world from the floor up and that their first encounter with a person is with their shoes. The more extraordinary the shoes, the more their curiosity seems to be sparked and their interest awakened. Curious Shoes is a performance involving dance, music and song that provides an opportunity for people with dementia to share the experience of seeing a live performance in a relaxed setting. It provides a mix of structured scenes and invitations from the performers to engage with the audience. With no pressure to follow a storyline, there is a loose connection through the scenes and images should its audience wish to find one. 

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