On the 9th of November I was privileged enough to review EUTCo’s performance of Neil LaBute’s ‘The Shape of Things’. I knew I was in for a night of culture when I entered the M&D Room to find it in the style of an art gallery. The room was lined with portraits of a man in various positions, the program revealing them to be named ‘UNTITLED’. This would prove to be very significant later on in the play. The staging consisted of three make-shift white walls upon which two more portraits were hung, the middle wall being left noticeably bare. The majority of the action of the play took place ominously in front of this blank canvas.
‘The Shape of Things’ was advertised as a play revolving around two contemporary couples, and this is indeed the case. Evelyn and Adam meet at the museum where Adam is a guard, and the audience are immediately endeared to the pathetic attempt made by the latter to persuade Evelyn not to deface a statue. Their ensuing romantic relationship is contrasted with that of their engaged friends – Jenny (Erin Yau) and Philip (Tom Joshi-Cale)- Adam and Evelyn very much being in a honeymoon phase whereas the other couple are already repressing doubts as to their union. As the play progresses, Adam goes through various changes at Evelyn’s encouragement. From a new haircut to a new closet and ultimately more permanent procedures, the audience became increasingly aware of a darker and more menacing undertone.
A tale of intrigue, temptation, and betrayal, the shocking plot twist at the end will have you sitting open-mouthed during this powerful performance
The character of Evelyn (Theresa Dunthorne) was the first to come onstage and took a very purposeful step over the red rope barrier, bringing her almost straight into the laps of the audience in the front row: “Every journey begins with a single step”. Peering out into the audience, she was joined by her co-star Jacob Hutchings, acting the part of Adam, and the effect of the actors looking at a supposedly naked statue situated within the audience immediately drew us all in. Jacob played the role of the bumblingly awkward and self-conscious young man, Adam, brilliantly, his comic timing being perfect, and his character was stunningly contrasted with the cold and domineering Evelyn.
“For art to exist, there has to be a line”. Whatever the moral line implicated in this phrase, it was undoubtedly and outrageously crossed by the end of the play. Art was the main topic of discussion by and amongst the characters of the play, its subjectivity, practical as opposed to aesthetic purpose, and usefulness being questioned and debated within scenes. A brilliant creative choice for the production was to collaborate with Art Society to provide life drawings and portraits as props. Those that did not make it onto the stage, were featured in the program: Megan Shepherd produced all of the drawings of the cast and creative team members, and Nia Morris, Zoe Allen, Laura Warren, Isha Gurung, and Jess Holland provided stunning versions of paintings titled ‘UNTITLED’. The layout of the program was truly ingenious.
I knew I was in for a night of culture
The most riveting part of the performance was its final scene. The heart-wrenching project exposition revealed the fanatical art graduate Evelyn to have been discontent with not being able to change the world, and so resorted to satisfying herself with changing someone’s world: Adam’s. Her matter-of-fact and emotionless relation of her “systematic makeover” of her lover, with human flesh as her base material and “manipulation as my palate knife”, exposed their entire relationship to have been a lie. This is why the middle wall had always been left bare: Adam was the ultimate masterpiece. Evelyn showed the audience recordings of intimate moments, gloating over how she had “totally and utterly re-fashioned [Adam] as a person”, making him into “a real piece of work”. Adam was a living and breathing example of the shape of things. The play closed on a repeated loop of a whispered exchange, Evelyn having admitted that that was the only genuine moment in their relationship. We never find out what was said there, and after indulging in a moment of shocked silence, the spectators burst into rapturous applause.
Adam was the ultimate masterpiece…a living and breathing example of the shape of things
This thought-provoking play leaves the audience haunted by the key question: “How far would you go for love? For art?”