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'Boots': The Bunker Theatre Explores Womanhood and Wilderness

Do not be put off by the title, this new play at the Bunker theatre is anything but downtrodden. Boots is a play that captures the transcendence in the mundanity of modern life; the awkward realism that permeates the interactions between people in the transient spaces of a pharmacy or a wood. The play follows a relationship between an overqualified pharmacist and her troubled seventy-year-old customer, through the heartache of everyday life. The two main characters' conversations manage to be both touching and hilarious – often at the same time. The monologues are a perfect glance into the lives of everyday women, which bounce off each other in interesting and contradictory ways. The play leaves the audience with questions: what does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a mother? How can women’s sexuality exist in the world?

Photographed by Tim Kelly (lighting to Jack Weir and set design to Lia Waber).

When you begin this play, it feels like a collection of random elements thrown in together. However, it keeps you hooked with the humour of Tanya Loretta Dee’s comical impressions of customers' odd states of ill-health and euphemisms for vaginas (including whistle, flu-flu and lala), and Amanda Boxer’s portrayal of a woman in her seventies explaining her sexual exploits with verbose swearing. This sporadic start pays off, as all the elements pull together to a fulfilling ending, which reminds us of the power of women’s relationships to each other across generations and the interconnectedness of us all, even in rural Surrey. The overarching metaphor of trees and root networks gives new dimensions to the themes of the play rather than simply supporting them.

Photographed by Tim Kelly (lighting to Jack Weir and set design to Lia Waber).

Occasionally, the writer tried too hard to cram in contemporary issues in order to win some ‘woke points’, with throwaway mentions of the privatisation of the NHS, the troubles of tinder and council corruption without any real follow through. In some places the dialogue was stunted by being more interested in ‘politically correctness’ than realism. The acting was also sometimes a little overdone for the intimate space of the Bunker theatre. However, even these did not detract from the overall brilliance of the play.

This play feels very small and ordinary in its scope and reminds us that there are wonderful things to be found in the small and the ordinary. It is ultimately about two women who have been trapped by their life and circumstances and how they help each other. It is a must see for anyone interested in the role of women, the pressures of the modern world on the individual or the fracturing of community.

Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor

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