Shoes to Fill at the Iris Theatre

Tanya Bridgeman photographed in ‘Shoes to fill’ at the Iris Theatre

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Last night I went to see ‘Shoes to Fill’ a one-woman play that is running as part of Iris Theatre’s Summer Festival: Seed Commission Shows. Iris Theatre’s Seed Commission Scheme was open to applications from early-career artists or companies in Spring of this year. The selected artists/companies each received £1000, as well as technical, marketing and creative support from Iris Theatre to develop and present their work as part of the Summer Festival. Each artist receives 50% of their production’s box office revenue. ‘Shoes to fill’, which is also presented by Fair Play productions, is the first show I’ve been able to catch as part of the Summer festival (I had an ill-timed cold and I didn’t want to be that person coughing loudly and freaking people out on the northern line). It was a great show to open my Summer Festival experience.

Written and performed by Tanya Bridgeman, ‘Shoes to Fill’ beautifully blends humour, pathos and defiance. Bridgeman is engaging both as a writer and a performer, welcoming us into the moving, slightly surreal world that she creates. This one-woman show tells the story of 3 women: our quirky protagonist (Granddaughter) and her two grandmothers. One grandmother is Irish, and the other is Bajan, both moved to London in the 1950s, invited here to work but very much ‘othered’ by the country that needed them, although this gives these inspiring women the space to truly be themselves. As Granddaughter faces her own leap of faith decision to quit her job and explore her passion, she draws strength from the resilience and experiences of her female ancestors, women who taught her not to be afraid to take up space.

Directed by Alex Miller, this show has a wonderful energy throughout, using the outdoor space at St Paul’s Church (the Actor’s Church in the heart of Covent Garden) cleverly to tell the three intertwining stories and create a connection between Bridgeman and the audience. I felt pulled into the world of the play, a world full of laughter, optimism, self-doubt and loss.

I don’t want to say too much as ‘Shoes to Fill’ is running until 10th July (this Saturday) so you still have a chance to enjoy it for yourself. It is well worth seeing, I laughed out loud and was brought to the brink of tears (I had to fight them, I didn’t want to be sniffling on the tube home). Plus any show that has a bespoke cocktail at the bar, has to be checked out right? I may be regretting my decision to stick to a soft drink.

Being outdoors and having spaced out seating, I felt very safe. We were lucky to have a clear evening, the rain taking a a break for the duration of the performance, although I was rain-coated up to be safe. It really is the most beautiful location for a theatre, I’m excited to be back there next week.

If you want to find out more about ‘Shoes to Fill’ or the rest of Iris Theatre’s summer festival – here is a link to their website

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