As shocking as it is seemingly heartwarming, Neil LaBute's The Shape of Things is an intense exploration of relationships that, through the brilliant artistic direction of Nicky Allpress and her creative team, creates an electrifying experience akin to if a rom-com had a baby with a psychological thriller.
There's a fine line between human connection and art; the attachment an artist holds to their work is in many ways just as intimate as the relationship one may hold with another. Nicky Allpress' most recent revival of Neil LaBute's emotionally thrilling masterpiece explores this concept with subtlety and genius, and now available on Original Theatre, feels aptly intimate through stylish filming that infuses energy and style within an already outstanding piece.
Park Theatre's production of this brilliant text is nothing short of commendable: the set design by Peter Butler is sleek and efficient, transforming its blank canvas with a chameleon-like quality and minimalist beauty. Contrastingly, Anna Reddyhoff's lighting design feels uncomfortably abrupt, as does the sound design by Asaf Zohar, creating a tense and offputting atmosphere that forebodingly underscores the often lighthearted action. All of this is perfectly captured on screen for an online audience, with camera work that understands when to step back and observe, allowing for an appreciation of the wider impression of the play.
Only superlatives can be said for the cast, who embody their morally questionable - and often downright despicable - characters in a frightening real way. Luke Newton is given a challenging role as Adam, yet captures his awkwardly charming shiftiness with great ease and understated naturalness. The standout performance, however, is given by Amber Anderson as Eve who opens the play with a fiery dynamism and endlessly engaging wit, hypnotising the audience with her initially loveable persona. This pair share brilliant chemistry, lulling the audience into a sense of optimistic sentimentality through the sweet, yet unconventional attraction within their relationship.
Carla Harrison-Hodge and Majid Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy complete the cast with excellent supporting performances, crafting a careful volatility to their relationship. Most impressively though, is the casts ability to adapt and change; The Shape of Things is a play about shifts in subjectivity, and the stunning performances here do exactly that, lulling the audiences into a perspective of support and affection for the characters, before harshly revealing unpleasant truths that lie beneath the surface.
Original Theatre and their team capture all of this in exquisite detail, as the raw and nuanced performances are amplified by intimate camera work that allows a uniquely close connection with the actors - while perhaps a show more spectacular in scale would thrive in the vast interior of a theatre, here the play is empowered through the closeness of the cinematic medium.
What opens as an amusingly romantic romp becomes an unpredictable explosion of emotion and, through Neil LaBute's rightfully lauded writing, explores the multifaceted - and subjective - difficulties of relationships. Original Theatre's online production deserves all the praise for presenting this phenomenal work to a wider audience in a way that is not only functional, but elevates the work through an intimate visual focus on the details.
You can find The Shape of Things online here with options of subscribing for £8.99 a month to access Original Theatre’s ever-growing library of award-winning entertainment.
AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review