Review: EUTCo’s ‘The Shape of Things’

I entered the M&D room with little idea of what to expect, however, EUTCO’s The Shape of Things took me by surprise. For most of its two-hour duration, the play is an intense and voyeuristic examination of two couples, along with the diverse and ever-changing relationships between the four individuals. However, the final scene unravels much of what the audience has come to believe to be the truth about the characters. Facades crumble, lies emerge, and the audience is left questioning the truth of their own life, just as much as the truth of the play.

One of the most striking aspects of The Shape of Things is its emphasis on minimalism. This applies to props, set, costume, but, most noticeably, cast. Only four actors take to the stage. Naturally, it follows that each actor is crucial to the play, and the four individuals chosen for the task absolutely delivered.

First to be introduced to the audience is Evelyn (Theresa Dunthorne); a strong-willed art major whose first minutes on stage, as she prepares to vandalise an art installation, clearly paint her as borderline psychotic. However, it is not only Neil LaBute’s dialogue which has this striking effect, but also Dunthorne’s portrayal; her mannerisms, expressions, and constant air of clinical detachment all serve to make Evelyn an intriguing, yet fully convincing character.

Swiftly joining Evelyn is Adam (Jacob Hutchings), an English student working part-time as the gallery security guard, who soon becomes Evelyn’s love interest. The first interaction between these two characters is particularly memorable, with the cool complacency of Evelyn contrasting the nervous yet endearing Adam. Hutchings certainly received a few laughs for portraying a character with such (albeit slightly cliché) social awkwardness, but he should also be applauded for the authenticity of his character development. Adam is the character who changes the most throughout the play, and through him we begin to come to terms with the answer to EUTCO’s question, “How far would you go for love?” A lot.

The final two characters, Phillip (Tom Joshi-Cale) and Jenny (Erin Yau), complete the love square which makes The Shape of Things so enthralling. Tensions between the two couples run especially high just before the interval, during an illicit moment between Adam and Jenny. The stretch of time between one act and the next leads the audience to wonder what else those two characters might do, if the action was to continue behind the metaphorical curtain. Honestly, if The Shape of Things were a novel, it would be unputdownable. It is also worth noting that Joshi-Cale and Yau, though the secondary couple of the action, make Phillip and Jenny equally compelling as Evelyn and Adam. The obnoxious alpha male and his gentle sweetheart are an integral and engaging part of The Shape of Things.

As with everything in the play, the props, set, and costume are stripped back but thoroughly effective. Three white boxes transform from pillars, to benches, to a bed, and yet nothing about it seems forced or unnatural. The M&D room can only offer a limited performing space, and I like how EUTCO has chosen to stage the play in line with the principles of its environment. Nothing is overcrowded, and everything has a purpose. There were, however, some quite lengthy pauses in between scenes, but perhaps this is an unavoidable effect of the minimalist cast.

The final scenes of The Shape of Things left me speechless. While much of the credit must go to the playwright for raising the important themes of art, intimacy, and the power of love, none of these would have hit so powerfully if it hadn’t been for EUTCO’s talented cast and production team. I thoroughly recommend that everyone goes to see the final shows.

Alice Walters

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