Tag Archives: Neil LaBute

THE SHAPE OF THINGS : A PORTRAIT OF INCONSOLABLE HURT

Olivia Hall Smith, Tayman Jamae, Georgia Brindley and Samson Alston in. ‘The Shape Of Things’. Pic by David Hooley

American playwright Neil LaBute’s ‘The Shape Of Things’ is a formidable play. It is reminiscent of the play ‘Oleanna’ by fellow American playwright David Mamet. Both plays are like lightning bolts. Both pivot around a fierce, vindictive, savvy female protagonist.  

In ‘Oleanna’ the protagonist is Carol, a university student who goes to see her Professor, John in his faculty room in the hope that she will get a better mark for the paper she has submitted. Their meeting starts in a convivial way but then becomes more heated, ending up spiralling out of control and encompassing subjects far broader than one single essay.

In Neil Labute’s ‘The Shape Of Things’ the protagonist is Evelyn, a  feisty, radical young woman doing her Masters degree in Visual Arts. Evelyn sets her sights on timid, conservative Adam who is an arts undergraduate.  

They meet at an art gallery. Evelyn has come to the gallery with a spray can, intending to deface a painting. Adam, the security guard on duty, catches her before she has had a chance to begin. They start chatting. Adam has a laid back attitude to her unruly behaviour, and  is oddly drawn to it. 

Sparks fly between them. Adam summons up the courage to ask for her phone number. Evelyn replies by spray canning her phone number on the inside of his corduroy jacket.

For Adam it is the beginning of an exciting adventure. Evelyn starts turning his life around, organising new clothes, new haircut, new glasses. From being something of a schmuck Adam is transformed into a confident young man.  

Adam can’t wait to introduce Evelyn to his best friends, a couple, the high spirited Phillip and the delicate Jenny. It is so important to Adam that they like her. At first they are impressed by Evelyn and how she is changing Adam but soon express their concern that Evelyn is too domineering. 

The current revival of Labute’s 2001 play has been co-directed by Les Solomon and Rachel Marley.  Their production does the play justice. They also ensure that the play’s dark humour comes through.

The staging is impressive, especially the play’s climactic scenes. The set is fluid with stagehands deftly making set changes, with a darkly lit stage, after every scene. Larry Kelly’s lighting design is very effective.There’s an atmospheric soundscape, uncredited, which underscores the action well. Hanging white curtains hide the theatre’s two black painted back walls.  

Solomon and Marley win good performances from the cast whose passion for the play is clearly discernible. 

Georgia Brindley portrays Evelyn as an icy, narcissistic, cruel woman who suffers from tunnel vision and only cares about her own path.

Samson Alston plays Adam as a man in a kind of paralysis, not knowing which way to go. Does he dive further into the new identity that has been created or does he jump off whilst he still has vestiges of his original self to claim?!

Tayman Jamae’s Phillip is high spirited, overbearing, temperamental and astute.

Olivia Hall Smith’s Jenny is very emotional and delicate, fraying at the edges as the play gets ever darker.

‘The Shape Of Things’ is a rich, immersive experience. One is left with so many talking points. To name but a few…How much of our identity is of our own creation and how much is how people see us? What qualifies as art and what is  self indulgence? The interplay of life and art and how unhealthy it can become when common sense vanishes.  

I left the theatre with the Irish band The Corrs song ‘Everybody Hurts’ in mind.

“When your day is long 

And the night 

The night is yours alone

When you’re sure you’ve had enough of life

Well hang on 

 

Don’t let yourself go 

Cause everybody hurts 

And everybody hurts

Sometimes”

Yes, the play is about hurt, but this is a  portrait of inconsolable hurt

Well worth a visit, Lambert House Enterprises production of Neil Labute’s ‘The Shape Of Things’ is playing the Flight Path Theatre, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville until Sunday January 31.. Performance times Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm plus Saturdays at 2pm. and Sundays at 6pm. http://www.trybooking.com/BMUXN

Featured image Georgia Brindley as Evelyn in Neil Labute’s ‘The Shape Of Things’.

Production Photography by David Hooley

THE SHAPE OF THINGS @ KINGS CROSS HOTEL

Left to right- Tina Jackson, Luke Holmes, Claudia Coy and James Manera in THE SHAPE OF THINGS
Left to right- Tina Jackson, Luke Holmes, Claudia Coy and James Manera in THE SHAPE OF THINGS

THE SHAPE OF THINGS by Neil LaBute is a modern classic. It is on the HSC syllabus, was made into a successful film in 2003 and was most recently revived in London in 2013. The current JST production, as part of the Sydney Fringe, is not intimated by the play’s pedigree. This is a back to basics production which takes a closer look at the personal dynamics and cruelties at the heart of the piece in an entertaining and engaging way.

Adam and Evelyn meet in tricky circumstances in a small college town museum. She, a visual arts student, objects to the figleaf over the ‘grapes’ of a classic statue. He, a part-time security guard and English major, approaches her with concern about the spray can she has in her hand. She is caustic and opinionated; he is diffident and somewhat blank. Continue reading THE SHAPE OF THINGS @ KINGS CROSS HOTEL

Neil LaBute’s THE SHAPE OF THINGS

(left to right) Rhiona Armont, James Manera, Emily Burke (Director), Claudia Coy and Benjamin Gageler
Rhiona Armont, James Manera, Emily Burke (Director), Claudia Coy and Benjamin Gageler

It is no accident that American playwright Neil LaBute’s THE SHAPE OF THINGS is on the HSC Drama syllabus. It is a play to be acted not read. In her program notes Emily Burke, directing it for Backstage at UTS, refers to this production as a ‘living piece of theatre’. And so it is. It is very well lifted off the page.

The piece begins and ends in a visual arts gallery. Evelyn, a visual arts student, is lurking around a male statue featuring a fig leaf with a spray can and intent. She has crossed a line before we even know her. Continue reading Neil LaBute’s THE SHAPE OF THINGS

THE SHAPE OF THINGS

The Shape of Things 1(1)-001
Diego AR Melo and Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou star in THE SHAPE OF THINGS

Gifted American film director, screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute has built up an impressive oeuvre of work since his first play FILTHY TALK FOR TROUBLED TIMES was first produced in 1989. For my money, his 1991 play THE SHAPE OF THINGS, ranks as one of his finest and most provocative works.

I first saw this play back in January 2005 in a great mainstream Sydney Theatre Company (STC) production  helmed by Jeremy Sims with wonderful performances by Leanna Walsmann as Evelyn and Brendan Cowell  as her victim/lover, Adam.

Yes of-course the show is performed on a  much smaller scale, nevertheless the Hot Room Theatre Group’s current revival at the tiny Horizon Theatre in Wiley Park, helmed by Steve Hopley, generated plenty of sparks.

You wouldn’t think that a play starts with an encounter and flirtation between an art gallery security guide and an abrasive, attractive young woman who wants to graffiti one of the gallery’s prized works of art would end up being a portrait of a ruthless, ambitious young artist who doesn’t think twice in using her personal life as raw material for her work without any responsibility for the emotional fallout that arises.

With Evelyn, LaBute has created a chilling, haunting role and Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou, who has primarily worked with Manly’s Rough Hewn Theatre Troupe, is up for it and gives a strong performance. UWS graduate Diego AR Melo holds his own as poor Adam, and Benjamin Buryo as his best friend, Philip and Alison Lee Rubie as his fiance, Jenny lend good support.

If you like your theatre with plenty of bite and really edgy dialogue, then try and make the trek out west before Hot Room’s production finishes on Sunday. The theatre is located on the corner of King George’s Road and Canterbury Road with off street parking.