I met with my friend Alfie Rakley, a young graduate living in London, who, along with two of his friends Matty and Michael, started a theatre company in London, Colourfully named “Wrong Shoe”.
I was originally invited to come and watch a “scratch” night. A night where different writers, directors and actors get to collaborate on theatre and show their talent to an audience. On the night I attended it was a horror-themed affair.
Two main pieces stood out to me, one based around childhood trauma, using fear of clowns and what the audience eventually finds out is a shared traumatic experience shared by the characters, named “The Clown”
The other was directed by Alfie and was called “Cut”, a story of an actress filming a modern slasher flick, who is trapped and tortured by her director and cast to help her “capture the moment”.
These two pieces stuck out to me as I can relate to the fear and anticipation created in both pieces. In “THE CLOWN” it focuses on a traumatic experience of the main characters life, the fear created comes from her accounting the trauma to a friend and dismissing her emotions merely as “ a childish nightmare”, until a new character confirms that her trauma is very real.. The Clown is an effective piece of horror, it does not need to use jump scares, loud string music or chaotic lightning to scare its audience. The fear created is a fear of one’s past traumas, it makes us question what impact our childhood traumas had on us and what if the things we choose not to believe, were real. Creating a sense of vulnerability amongst the audience.
Cut, however, fills the gap left by The Clown, one of the intense skin-crawling horrors. Focusing on the infamous “final girl” at the start of a slasher movie, after a short scene, it’s revealed she is onset in Hollywood and her director is displeased with her performance. Once the director leaves, the horror begins, she discovers she’s trapped on set with only the voice from the sound booth to keep her company. The voice turns into that of the person trying to kill her in the movie they’re filming, revealing that all the cast and crew are dead and that this has been an elaborate plan to isolate and torture her. Cut ramps up on the tension, a slow-building score throughout culminating with our protagonist crying and screaming only to be revealed it was a plan to get her to experience true fear.
Cut creates both a traditional horror, one of being scared for our protagonist and also a more nuanced horror, a fear of expectations and commitment. It asks us what’s expected of performers, artists and people. Should we be expected to suffer to achieve the best results possible? The fear created is almost desperate and anxious, it reflects what it’s like to be judged on the merit of one’s work and whether being proud of the work you’ve created is enough or do we rely on the opinions of others to feel validation. Cut tells us of the expectations that people have of artists to commit to their work
I started by asking Alfie how Wrong Shoe was formed, he went on to discuss his time at Royal Holloway University. He met both of his colleagues during his time there, they were able to collaborate over their 3 years together, they were most proud of their work on a Mini Theatre festival at the university, this allowed them to find lots of engaged and enthusiastic people to work on theatre together.
He went to mention their humble beginnings, initially just starting with a social media presence. Alfie and Michael were able to work together on Michaels dissertation piece, a play on postnatal depression. Their next piece was called 3 men in a barrel, which Matty came to produce, adding the final member to their team. Which led to producing four self-funded shows.
Now based in Croydon, they are hosted by The Front Room an Urban arts and performance centre, whose goal is to reflect the culture and history of Croydon. It is currently the only place showing theatre in Croydon, it is apart of the cultural corner of Croydon, along with Boxpark and Fairfield Halls.
They recruited Wrong Shoe because they were looking for young, yet experienced people who had the passion and drive to contribute to Croydon cultural corner. This gave the young artists the structure and platform to create and perfect their art form. They have provided them with a safe and consistent performance space, given them insurance to host rehearsals and otherwise given them benefits, they’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
Alfie continues, telling me of the effect Croydon has had on Wrong Shoe when the guys first started they wanted to show that they could make professional theatre. Their initial focus was on entertainment and execution, but being in Croydon has helped to encourage them to get more politically and socially motivated. Now they aim to include the social issues facing the area into their production. Stating that the more time the group spends in Croydon the more they feel connected to the community and realize their potential to contribute to the area.
Alfie realizes the irony of three white men trying to tackle the worlds social issues but believes that they have the means to help BAME writers, directors and actors produce authentic art without whitewashing the idea.
I last wanted to know what inspired Alfie and what Wrong Shoe’s goals for the future were. Alfie told of his love for theatre, particularly German Expressionist akin to Faust or Metamorphosis. This fascination has led him to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival multiple times, this was integral to him as he got to experience niche theatre which in turn gave him the clarity on what he wanted to create.
When considering goals he paused for a moment, he mentioned how once they were merely focused on perfecting a method and putting themselves to the test. Now that they’ve proven they can make legitimate theatre, the focus has shifted, onto making legitimate theatre that has an impact, focusing on social issues of race and gender. Lastly, Alfie mentions that one day they hope to receive funding from the Arts Council UK to provide groundbreaking, mind-opening theatre.
All in all, I’m amazed at the drive and talent showed consistently by Wrong Shoe, every show is an absolute pleasure to attend. Consistently funny, aware and knowledgeable. Every show takes an inundated amount of blood, sweat and tears, yet they continuously chase their passion. It makes you realize, they’ve got the wrong shoes, but there on the right path.
A big thank you to Alfie, Matty and Michael for permitting me to write this piece, it has been a true pleasure of mine.