100 Ways to Tie a Shoe-Lace

Fri 4th – Sat 19th August 2017


Sian Bayley

at 09:28 on 12th Aug 2017



‘100 Ways to Tie a Shoelace’ is an exciting piece of new writing devised by a talented group of Leeds University graduates who are members of the quirky theatre company, Forget About the Dog. Their show tells the story of a young woman called Kat, who was involved in a serious accident and is now struggling to remember her old self. Plunging into the depths of her unconscious, this play explores the complex workings of the human mind with a light-hearted comic touch, but occasionally strays into confused nonsense.

Leanne Stenson is convincing in her portrayal of a confused young woman frustrated at her sister’s attempts to be helpful. The ensemble acting between her and India Thompson (Grace) is a delight to watch, packing an emotional punch in a play that often descends into the farcical. The brain’s absurd interludes, which insert Kat into a war movie, a gameshow, and a sports report for instance, are evidently meant to reflect Kat’s muddled mental state; but make the piece a little too zany and heavy-handed for my liking, resembling an acid trip rather than a traumatised mind.

It is in these sections of the play that the performance begins to feel forced, almost as if it is trying to be funny. Many of the jokes are witty and well written, but fall flat on stage, not appearing to come naturally in the sequence of events, and frequently failing to generate the laughter expected. Instead, the play works best when the performers explore the unfathomable complexity of Kat’s mind, examining her primitive instincts, fears, and truth-telling centres. All of which contribute to a more sensitive and nuanced portrayal of her attempt to reclaim her mind and finally relearn how to tie her shoelaces.

A stand-out feature of this production is its excellent choreography, making the most of sheets, blocks, sticks and pillows to visually convey Kat’s accident and subsequent struggle to get her mind to work properly again as she recovers in hospital. Some of the set pieces are so beautifully performed they almost seem like dance, but others are too slow and drawn-out, which, combined with the warm temperature of the theatre, led my mind to wander a little.

This is a promising piece of new writing with an important message about the value of trying, even if one does not succeed. Sadly, much of this is obscured by the unnecessary mayhem surrounding forced comic sketches that dominate the surveys of Kat’s brain.


Eleanor Lawson

at 13:06 on 12th Aug 2017



When Kat first struggles to remember how to tie her shoelaces, her mind envisions her shoes in the trenches, as dangerous objects that must be disposed of before they can cause harm. Following her accident and subsequent difficulty to recall words and actions, things once so familiar they barely required conscious thought are now threats, showing how dangerously anything can slip away.

Written and devised by the actors themselves, ‘100 Ways to Tie a Shoe-Lace’ is clearly a creative piece that radiates love and compassion. Its greatest strength is without a doubt the wonderfully slick physical movement and creativity with props. An emotive motif shows sticks used as a supportive rail for Kat’s physical therapy, and as building blocks for a man which repeatedly fall back into fragments. Stressful situations are transfigured into glamorous adverts and high-energy game shows. Blocks and blankets are whipped around the stage in seconds as the hospital room that Kat, played admirably by Leanne Stenson, is caged in is transformed into a warzone, a jungle, a beach, her mind struggling to cope with the trauma of being dislocated from her own body. So it takes her to somewhere else.

Stenson has the biggest job at the heart of the show, and carries the weight of the role admirably. It is distressing to watch her stutter over her words, anxiously screw up the hem of her shirt into a ball and curl up in isolation in the corner of the room. It is easy to become invested in her progress and to feel distressed as she retreats into herself. India Thompson as Kat’s sister, Grace, also gives an emotive, nuanced performance in showing the tragedy of being unable to help a loved one while they are suffering, but she is perhaps an even stronger performer when playing the charismatic star of Kat’s visions.

Each of the actors apart from Stenson multi-roles, exuding energy as the various parts of Kat’s mind and figments of her imagination. Jordan Larkin is particularly fantastic as the physical representation of Kat’s brain, his sarcastic quips bringing humour to the conflict brewing inside Kat. But he also brings tragedy to the fore, manipulating Stenson’s limbs to show the loss of control she has over her own body. He highlights the disconnect between her brain and mouth when he can speak eloquently but she heartbreakingly stutters over her words, physically pained as she tries to spit out syllables. Joshua Ling and Robin Leith also bring tremendous amounts of energy to the piece, to the point that it is difficult to watch anyone else when they are at their most magnetic. In short, they are hilarious.

As a piece of writing, this play relies on tropes that have often been used before, but they are used emotively and aptly present the struggles of patients struggling to connect their minds and bodies after horrific accidents. This is a fantastically creative and loving piece, and an undiscovered gem of the Fringe that deserves to be seen.


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