The Shape of Things

“The funny script entertains and fast dialogue holds attention....”

Over twenty years since it’s premiere at the temporary Almeida in King’s Cross, Neil LaBute’s dark comedy, The Shape of Things is revived at the Park Theatre in London. 

Set in the fictional Mercy college in a small American midwestern town, attractive art student Evelyn (Amber Anderson) meets geeky English literature major Adam (Luke Newton) while he’s working in a museum where she’s about to graffiti genitals on a sculpture. She tells him he’s cute and Adam is beguiled by her. As they embark on a relationship she shapes him into a ‘model’ boyfriend, coaxing him to exercise more, dress differently, loose the spectacles and get a nose job. 

Taking an instant dislike to Adam’s mate Phil (Majid Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy), Evelyn sabotages their friendship and drives a wedge between Phil and his fiancé Jenny (Carla Harrison-Hodge) who Adam fancied before she met Phil. Eventually, Evelyn persuades Adam to stop seeing them. 

The clothes, cultural references and soundtrack firmly place it in the late 90s, but the play isn’t dated. In exploring the nature of art, what you’d do for love, relationships and obsession with looks, it’s as relatable as ever. 

The funny script entertains and fast dialogue holds attention as intrigue about what’s really going on builds up to a big reveal at the end.  All four characters are fully formed and complex, so it’s a great vehicle for four young actors. 

Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy is funny as stereotypical frat-boy Phil.  Harrison-Hodge is amiable as Jenny. A well-played familiarity and warmth in her interactions with Adam are intentionally more comfortable to watch than his relationship with Evelyn. 

Anderson, a well-known TV and film actor is impressive in her stage debut as the sociopathic Evelyn. Cool and alluring when she meets Adam, as her control over him grows, Evelyn’s power of suggestion is unsettling and her manipulation cold and cruel. She might be physically affectionate towards Adam, but Anderson plays Evelyn as emotionally aloof, so we sense there is more to their union than boy meets girl. 

Newton revels in Adam’s transformation. Hunched and apologetic as nerdy Adam in a cord blazer, he easily finds his swagger and good posture in a leather jacket and white jeans (it’s the 90s!). Charged with delivering a lot of funny lines, he keeps up the pace. Making the point that refashioning the outside causes behavioural changes, Newton subtly becomes a bit less likeable although he’s always vulnerable.  

For actors who have on stage chemistry, Anderson and Newton manage to pull off not ‘clicking’ as a couple, but he’s infatuated and she, well… you’ll see… 

This show was reviewed on the 30th May 2023.  The Shape of Things runs at the Park Theatre, London until the 1st July 2023.  Tickets available here: The Shape of Things | Projects | Park Theatre

Review written by Victoria Willetts

Photo credit: Mark Douet

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