Review: Boots, Bunker Theatre

Written by Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher, Boots is a touching story about loneliness and the unlikely friendship of two intergenerational women.

Willow (Tanya Loretta Dee) works as a pharmacist at Boots having just moved to the area, and when she’s not spending her days dealing with lecherous customers or women who can’t quite bring themselves to pronounce their private body parts, she’s conducting research into the healing properties of trees. One day she meets Liz (Amanda Boxer), an elderly customer with a razor-sharp potty mouth and a habit of speaking her mind. A full-time carer for her husband Jeremy, who suffers from Parkinson’s, Liz enjoys walks in the local wood to help de-stress and is devastated when she learns the trees are about to be destroyed to make way for a new superstore. The two women embark on a heartwarming friendship, bonding over their love for the forest, and in doing so help one another to heal from past traumas. Though the pair clash at times, they have far more in common than they first thought, both haunted by their memories.

Sacha Voit and Jessica Butcher’s striking script, brought to life thanks to strong direction from Nadia Papachronopoulou, weaves poignant scenes, as the women reflect on their difficult lives, in among moments of wit and pure hilarity, such as the moment Liz visits the store to buy tampons for her husband.

The two characters of Willow and Liz are both flawed and likable, and they’re refreshingly well-rounded thanks to both the writers and actors who play them. Tanya Loretta Dee is a joy to watch as Willow, who’s friendly and enthusiastic on the outside, but inside she’s nursing a dark secret, and it’s impossible not to warm to her as she directly addresses the audience at the start of the play. Meanwhile Amanda Boxer threatens to steal the show as the brutally honest and eccentric Liz with her impeccable comic timing and unforgettable one-liners (“his breath smells like Gandhi’s jockstrap”), which serve to make her more emotional moments more moving to watch. The two compliment one another perfectly, their friendship is believable and endearing to observe, and it feels like a welcome change to see ordinary women supporting women.

Set designer Lia Waber makes great use of the Bunker’s space and brilliantly echoes the cold, artificial feel of a high street pharmacy along with the warm, welcoming atmosphere of the woodland, with help from Jack Weir’s imaginative lighting design and Chris Drohan’s subtle sound effects.

The play packs a lot in, and if anything, with a running time of just 75 minutes Boots could benefit with a little more time to expand upon some of the issues explored. That being said, with brilliant dialogue, exceptional performances and a beautiful take on female friendship, Boots is a warm, witty and engaging tale that’s not to be missed!

Boots is playing at the Bunker Theatre until 16th March. 

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Photo credit: Tim Kelly

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