Written and performed by Luigi Ciotta
We all bend down to peek at a world that keeps on going despite everything…
A beaten up old bike, a dusty hand wound 78rpm gramophone, and a folkloristic “theatrical” shoe-shiner who’s ready to polish anything you may be wearing on your feet … even the feet themselves!!
Shoeshine is specifically designed for flexibility. It has no heavy backdrop, no technical requirements, suits any occasion and is an original idea for festivals where it acts as an entertaining relaxation and rest area for the public!
Shoeshine is not a “show” in the classical sense, but more of a stationary comic theatre improvisation. The time spent having their shoes shined is a means by which passers-by and clients are drawn into older, simpler times, into a scene from bygone days and, through this endearing character’s delightful chit-chat, re-introduced to values that may be of some use in today’s world. It’s all about humanity and simplicity … and all very comical.
The shoe-shiner is a figure that most would imagine in the street, in any part of the world, at least until the 1970s and that conjures up images of poverty and emigration, but one that is, nonetheless, capable of surprising skill in his profession.
As we are normally caught up our modern lives, dominated by productivity, technological progress and, above-all, stress, this playful character evokes memories of the serenity of a break … a moment to reflect, to breathe, to listen and maybe meet someone who will make you look at things from a different point of view.
Anyway, if modern manis obliged to/used to running around for the best part of his time, at the very least he should do so in suitable shoes! Shoes that will help him understand how important feet are for the stability and balance of the whole body and, most important of all, how, when running, it is necessary to draw energy from the earth as a tree does from its roots. For is not true that in all races, whether by foot or in a car, it is a good idea to take a pit-stop, or rather a step back, from the race to better understand where we are really going?!
The spectator, client or shoe-shinee, whatever you want to call him, is invited to sit and put himself at ease as he is serenaded with a soundtrack that wanders from the 1920s to the 50s. He can read a selection of newspaper and magazines (that may help him acquire an improved sense of critique towards the mass media), sip coffee, tea or a glass of wine when the occasion arises, or perhaps simply allow himself to be waited on by a colourful and folkloristic shoe-shiner.
Our dear shoe-shiner implicitly reminds us of such values as humility, calm and humanity with the way he puts himself completely at the service of others and puts his “customers” at ease, in a world where work is hard to come by and where those who do work are marked by a panicked drive for success that brings out the worst in all of us. He does all of this using simple and engaging conversation that can range from the deepest problems in this our world to … how to make the best home-made pasta!!
In this way, an area for the participant to relax in is created, however, it is more “active relaxation” and perhaps the means to a “peaceful personal release” and a chance to discuss and debate certain ideas with the small crowd of curious spectators.
All this is done in a simple and relaxed way but is above all comical and ironic. Improvisation and clowning techniques are used primarily, but these are combined with story-telling, juggling and basic dance (from the Charleston to boogie woogie and rock n’roll).