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Lost Soles

Assembly Roxy


On entering the auditorium you are greeted by a middle aged man seated on the near corner of the stage. He greets you and asks if anyone speaks Spanish; if someone answers in the affirmative a brief exchange may take place.

Centre stage stands a wardrobe with a sign proclaiming that we are in Havana in the 1950's. There are platforms of varying heights on either side of the stage and a chair downstage centre. There are two diffuser lamps at the back of the stage, a hanging central lamp and two anglepoise lamps, one in each downstage corner; apart from a general wash from the overheads these provide the only sources of light to the stage. There are also three pairs of shoes in different styles, one by the chair and one each at the downstage corners.

When all is ready the man moves to the wardrobe and swivels it to reveal a rail from which hang several shirts. He inspects some of them but rejects them with some show of exasperation. He removes his own shirt and in his vest he puts on the pair of shoes situated centre stage. They are tap shoes.

Thus begins a tale of a young boy learning to tap dance, initially with some difficulty, much to the frustration of his tutors, and later takes off to the US in the sixties where he makes an unsuccessful performance at Carnegie Hall, after which he finally returns to Cuba and to the bosom of his family and his home.

There is a touch of the auteur about this man as he remarkably takes control of every aspect of the staging apart from operating the sound and music cues (and even here there is a moment when he places a vinyl LP onto a working record player and manually plays it onstage). Between scenes, in a deliberate manner, he precisely moves the furniture about the stage, covering pieces where necessary, moving the lights (whether moving the central ceiling light up or down as required or adjusting the anglepoises) and often changes his shoes. 

I sat there thinking "this shouldn't work" but it does, it is absolutely compelling; here you are seeing all the hidden, backstage, processes played out in front of you in an unhurried and precise manner and seems to provide a weighty punctuation before we take up the story again. And of course each episode is illuminated by a wonderful dance routine (virtually all tap routines) which he will perform on a pool table which was once a wardrobe or on a platform that later becomes a bed.

There is such a calm assurance and a gentle humour in the storytelling; and by the end you know that those old photographs you saw earlier, they were his family, his people. And the story he has just shared with you is his family's story, a story of which he is now a part. This is a quietly profound and moving piece of storytelling, a quiet tour-de-force.

Lost Soles is on at Assembly Roxy until August 28th (not 14th)

Tickets available here

Lost Soles
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