Simon Ward reviews BOOT at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre
We open in an all too realistically-rendered anonymous hotel conference facility. Exactly the kind of place where school reunions and other excruciatingly awkward social events are held. The blandness of the furnishings and the harsh lighting do nothing to elevate the mood. Hence the necessity of gin to ease the pain a little, as two former classmates, Emma (Kate O’Rourke) and Karen (Eliza Williams, who also wrote the script) catch up after twenty years. Or do they? We are immediately struck by their different clothing choices – Emma has clearly dressed to impress, although, of course, not wishing to try too hard. Karen, on the other hand, looks like she has just come from the gym. And so begins the ongoing unravelling of our expectations as it plays out over the course of an hour. There is fun to be had as Emma repeatedly tries to hook up with the other members of the group, before the realisation of the truth gradually dawns.
The play takes a distinctly darker turn as it progresses, and as the different agendas of the women become apparent. Kate tries to explain, and there is a good joke arising from the difficulty of explaining that you have been literally following someone in today’s social media-obsessed world. As it transpires that Emma’s world is perhaps not as perfect as she had thought, or perhaps wanted to believe, the possibility that taking drastic action might actually improve things unfolds. Because the message that Kate is fumblingly trying to express is that they have both unknowingly been sharing the same man for the last twenty years. And furthermore, that said man is right now in the boot of a Zafira in the hotel car park.
This is the intriguing premise of the play, but unfortunately, although always entertaining, it seems to peter out rather than develop further. At just an hour long perhaps there wasn’t enough time but it would have been interesting to see more of what happened, and where it went from there. One could imagine, for example, a kind of Thelma and Louise kinship growing out of their mistreatment by what sounds like a boorish and frankly misogynistic man. The ending suggests that both women are being interviewed about events, presumably by the police, their accounts not quite agreeing, and they answer twice with slightly different inflections each time. But the ultimate outcome is left vague, and for this reviewer, unsatisfying. A tantalising setup which needed more time and space to work through to a fitting conclusion.
BOOT is running at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre (above the Lion & Unicorn Pub), 42-44
Gaisford Street, Kentish Town, London NW5 2ED until 5th March