THE SHAPE OF THINGS
By Neil Labute
Arcola Theatre (Arcola 2) 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 21 December 2013
Runs 1hr 35mi No interval.
Review: William Russell 5 December.
Acts of creation and destruction.
Set in a small Midwestern university town four students become involved in a tangled web woven by one of them, Evelyn, an art student, who embarks on creating a work of art for her rather splendid and completely different. In the process she destroys, torments, and changes Adam as well as running riot in the lives of the other couple, Adam’s room-mate friend Philip, a College Jock, and Jenny, his Sandra Dee type fiancée. It is very funny, painful at times, and raises all sorts of questions about the nature of art, about human relationships, just how much we should try to alter people for our own ends, and the lengths people will go in the name of love – or self gratification.
Labute, not one to pull his punches, is well served by his director Samuel Miller and the cast although the transformation of Adam from dowdy anorak to model man with new haircut, a nose job and designer clothes is not perhaps as impressive or possibly as shocking as it should be. Adam looks much the same after as before, although minus glasses and a rather dire blouson.
Anna Bamberger is splendidly menacing as the obsessed Evelyn, all long legs and hot pants, manipulating all around her – one is never quite sure just how far she will go, or whether she means what she says – and as Jenny, the nice girl, who just wants to get married, Harrie Hayes complements her beautifully.
After a slightly strident start Sean McConaghy gets into his stride managing to make Adam, who really is a waste of space, a person to sympathise with, while Sean Browne strikes just the right notes as the jovial, muscle bound, dangerous and not very bright Jock reluctantly heading for the altar. The twists and turns of the plot are fascinating and the issues raised by Labute beautifully set out as Evelyn heads for her inevitable comeuppance and the other three have their lives destroyed.
Evelyn: Anna Bamberger.
Philip: Sean Browne.
Jenny: Harrie Hayes.
Adam: Sean McConaghy.
Director: Samuel Miller.
Lighting: Paul Green.
Sound: George Dennis.
Assistant director: Eva Sampson.
Associate designer: Katie Unsworth-Murray.
Associate costume: Clare Amos.