My Mother's Shoes (3 stars)

This article is from 2019

My Mother's Shoes

A daughter looks back on her relationship with her Polish mother

Although her mum died seven years ago, Karola Gajda still loves her, and that's the biggest take-away from her show My Mother's Shoes. Her mum certainly had it tough and no mistake. From a Polish family, Gajda's mum was deported to a Siberian gulag by Stalin during WWII, and things didn't stop there; due to a series of medical misadventures, she ended up having her feet removed due to gangrene after she came to Britain.

She had a pair of special shoes created so she could still walk; for Gajda growing up, the rhythm and volume of these shoes coming up the stairs provided a quick gauge to her mother's mood.

Gajda's show is more than a simple tribute; yes, it's a history lesson, but also a personal rumination of the complexity of a parental relationship. Gajda's relationship with her mother didn't always run smoothly, and it's clear that she regrets some of the conflict between them. But there are also sweet memories here too, of an afternoon tea at the Ritz, and of her mother's desire to share the positives in her life. Reliant on cortisone to survive, there's evidence here of her hard-scrabble existence, but the scope of the story is very much about what can be carried forward; the past informs the present here to good effect.

There's some detail missing; Gajda's tone is conversational, making good use of a backing tape to evoke atmosphere, but sometimes skipping over pertinent information that might evoke a more specific picture in the minds of her listeners. For anyone with a feel for Poland, there's plenty of reasons to recommend My Mother's Shoes; for sincerity, warmth and relevance, this small but carefully formed free show is far better value than many of the fringe's pricier enterprises.

Laughing Horse @ Bar 50, until 25 Aug (not 19), 12.15pm, free.

My Mother's Shoes

  • 3 stars

Karola Gajda Some women aspire to wearing their mother’s shoes. As a child we might have dressed up in them. Later in life, we may follow in our mother’s footsteps intentionally, or because of how we’ve been moulded. Aged just three in 1940, Karola’s Polish mum was deported by Stalin to Siberia. The Red Cross reunited her…