In a report published by the Co-Op and The British Red Cross in 2016, over 9 million people of all ages said they are often or are always feeling lonely.
Loneliness, a subject frequently associated with the older generation, is slowly becoming more recognised as also afflicting millennials. Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher’s Boots addresses the issue in regard to both generations, whilst illustrating the power inter-generational conversations can have in combating it.
Set in a village near Surrey, Lia Waber’s set is half a glaringly sanitised pharmacy and half bark and tree stumps, alluding to the cohesive theme of nature later in the play. Willow, excellently played by Tanya Loretta Dee, opens with the monotony of her working life as a pharmacist. Loretta Dee really connects with the audience in these first moments, imitating the customers she serves, through eye contact and gesticulation – and instantly sets the precedent that there are light hearted elements to this piece.
Willow’s humdrum routine slowly begins to shift when she meets Liz (Amanda Boxer). Liz witnesses Willow stand up to a sexist and racist customer, and from there both characters continue to defy expectations; causing their connection to initially come as a clash – before blossoming into an understanding and finally a kinship.
The intermediary between the two characters comes from their interest in nature, and Voit and Butcher have clearly done their research on this as Willow talks in scientific terms about the ‘Wood Wide Web’. It’s here, in the woods, where the characters become candid about the suffering they have each been through, and their roots begin to correlate. Loretta Dee and Boxer eclipse themselves here as we get an insight into their respective backgrounds and mental health without ever pursuing sympathy, only empathy – particularly with Loretta Dee’s depiction of panic attacks executed so delicately that it is truly commendable.
An eclectic mix of issues are addressed with sensitivity and fervour in this female led production; the only criticism is that 75 minutes is not long enough to legitimately explore them all. Expanding this piece to become a full length production, that could go on to the West End/to tour, would aid not only the material but help to push these topics, deservedly, into the mainstream.
Boots is an important piece evoking laughter, tears, and thoughtful discussion afterwards: the mise en scène faithfully uniting the impeccable acting, writing and direction.