Shoe Kangaroo and the Big Bad Boot

Review written by Flossie Waite
Produced by Garlic Theatre
Little Angel Theatre
For ages 4+

If, from looking at the name of this show, you are expecting a cute marsupial tucked up in a croc, think again. It’s tricky to come up with a title that could accurately reflect this surreal journey; “The Boots Have Eyes” has a nice ring to it but might not attract families. Shoe Kangaroo is a quirky production with a Lewis Carroll flavour and an immense capacity to turn shoes (and handbags and hoovers) into ingenious puppets.

Shoe Island is filled with, understandably, lost shoes, and inhabited by a range of creatures resembling them. There’s the welly with one eye, the sock-bodied man who tapers into a trainer, the policeman with a heel for a face, and the kangaroos with soles for ears. When mysterious wiggly worms (each with its own large eyeball) wriggle out of the sea and onto the island, more shoes take on a life of their own, including the big bad boot.

The big bad boot isn’t a huge, kicking Dr Marten. It’s a knee-length, vivid red, high-heeled boot. With Mark Pitman, the sole performer’s, expert puppeteering, the boot’s slithering movements and stiletto-sharp face are genuinely a bit scary. Shoe Kangaroo is a baby joey so young his body is still worm-like (that’s a definite stage in a kangaroo’s development) and adorably encased in a stripy sock, but the eponymous hero is removed from the action by the Big Bad Boot fairly early on. This interesting narrative twist in an already mind-boggling production means that there really is all to play for – it’s impossible to guess what’s going to happen next.

Mark Pitman looks as delighted, shocked and scared as the audience throughout. Though the puppets’ actions are literally in his hands, he gives them a life of their own: when Shoe Kangaroo hides under his jacket, he seems genuinely bemused as to where the character can have got to.

Shoe Kangaroo and the Big Bad Boot is distinctly ickier than it seems, but the nastier elements are pitched just right – inducing pleasantly horrified squeals that put it most definitely on the wonderfully dark end of the spectrum.

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