Angie Le Mar: In My Shoes

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

It is possibly a mistake to market In My Shoes with its jovial poster of a beaming Angie Le Mar and a flyer blurb that uses 'comedy' as three of its first 20 words.

For this character showcase offers a deeper theatrical experience than just going for the laughs. It’s played with some wit, but also includes scenes that move beyond pathos and into the genuinely tragic.

The more obvious comic efforts only land some of the time, but the aim always seems to have been to provide a more rounded picture of her creations, as well as demonstrating her convincing acting talents. In the way she inhabits these fictional folk, comparisons to Whoopi Goldberg, also made in the promotional material, don’t seem too far wide of the mark.

Le Mar walks ‘in the shoes’ of six characters, linked by occasional cross-references and a slightly clunky footwear motif that always draws attention to itself whenever it returns, reaching a nadir in a pun about an unshod woman ‘baring her sole’.

The first alter ego we meet is American soul diva Falushilah Falashilay, reprised from Le Mar’s mid-Nineties revue Funny Black Women On The Edge. Despite this vintage, her complaints about the devaluation of celebrity have a modern, reality-era ring – even if it’s not an original thought. Such musing are twinned with numerous examples of Falashilay’s own high-maintenance lifestyle, cashing in on her charisma.

Although she’s at the other end of the socio-economic scale, unemployed Rebecca Star is on similar territory, arguing with an unseen JobCentre clerk that she can find a way out of her situation – by becoming a model just like her idol, Jordan. Yet this sketch turns out to be one of the more disturbing pieces, as she divulges the sexual abuse that led her to think this way.

Similarly, rude girl Dupre McKenzie gets some easy laughs from her loose clothing and even looser gait – but it turns out she is slouching her way towards a remorseful talk to young offenders, where she is haunted by painful memories of the youngster she fatally stabbed.

As well as pathos, we have bathos as these sombre ideas give way again to comic caricatures such as the singleton Valerie Simpson, whose ups and downs of high-expectations dating will be universally recognised – and laughed at. However, the random snatches of songs that sum up her situation are an imposition.

Samantha Hyde is an am dram queen trying to recapture her day in the spotlight, oh-so long ago, as she suffers the indignity of changing in a draughty church hall toilet – and having to improvise after forgetting her tampons. Such broad humour is over-the-top compared to the realism of much of the show, but it hits home.

But the outright funniest character Le Mar presents is author and lifestyle guru Charmaine Lawrence: an author-cum-lifestyle guru who absent-mindedly glides into defiant Jamaican street patois – and even Bob Marley lyrics – whenever her motives are questioned.

And then we are back to chanteuse Falashilay – though in truth she barely gets around to singing. Instead she taunts the audience for being ugly, smelly or having poor dress sense. Beneath this, Le Mar shows a few flashes of quick-thinking cleverness, but in general the insults, though well-received, are one-dimensional. And since this badinage is all conducted to the supposed introduction to a song, it’s backed by eight bars of simplistic soul preamble repeated and repeated and repeated over an infuriating and brain-numbing ten minutes.

It’s a frustrating end to rewarding night of … well, not comedy, exactly, but theatre.

Review date: 10 May 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Millfield Theatre

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