Home » D21, Going Out, Theatre

Artful deception

Posted on 4th March 2010. No Comment

Email This Comment Email This Comment

Stevie Martin is enthralled by The Shape of Things, First Person Theatre Company, 28th – 30th January 2010

a piece of work that rarely faltered

Having never seen Neil LaBute’s The Shape Of Things before, the genuinely shocking denouement was always going to come as a surprise. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the incredible high quality of First Person Theatre Company’s production; it was sensitive, amusing, startling and commendably executed. Small disclaimer: there will be spoilers for those who didn’t manage to catch its Assembly Rooms run.

At some points one almost felt like a fly on the wall

From the outset, the scenes were cleverly set by Elizabeth Claydon’s Evelyn spraying words onto a blank canvas; the play’s principal theme, that of art and its importance, already clearly established. Adam Usden constructed a unified, focused and tightly directed piece of work that rarely faltered; the entire production as a whole was, in itself, art. The set was simple and effective, with scene changes punctuated by projected home videos of Evelyn and Steffan Griffiths’ Adam ensuring that attention was never drawn away from the fundamental core; their relationship. In order to pull this play off, there has to be an authenticity about the bond between its leading characters and thankfully Griffiths and Clayden were more than up to the challenge.

Clayden’s charisma and natural stage presence contributed towards a brilliantly convincing portrayal of the back-stabbing artist, a perfect foil to Griffiths’ nervous, geeky and self conscious student. Both delivered the witty, quick-fire dialogue with ease and Usden’s decision to have the actors talk over each other, stutter, pause and run lines together gave them an honesty not often seen on the Assembly Rooms stage. At some points one almost felt like a fly on the wall, watching these scenes unfold, giving the eventual climax even more of a punch.

There was a tendency… to shout

The group scenes were especially naturalistic, and the awkward confrontation between Evelyn and Phil, played by Callum Cheatle, was particularly well executed. Cheatle himself oscillated between confidently convincing and slightly uncomfortable; perhaps a subtler approach to portraying the chauvinistic arrogance of Phil would have been more effective. There was a tendency, although this is more of a directorial issue as opposed to a problem with Cheatle’s performance, to shout in order to convey anger despite the fact that doing the exact opposite would get the point across a lot more interestingly.

Rebecca Mackinnon was wonderfully sweet in her portrayal of Jenny; charming, likeable and demonstrating- as did the rest of the cast- spot on comic timing; she provided the light relief from Cheatle’s arrogant ‘lad’ and the intensity of Griffiths’ and Clayden’s relationship. In saying that, the revelatory moment between her and Griffiths was genuinely touching and surprisingly authentic; again, something rarely seen in productions at this level.

Such performances, alongside Adam Usden’s intelligent and creative direction solidified First Person Theatre Company’s The Shape Of Things as one of the most impressive theatrical offerings of the academic year so far.

Stevie Martin

Comments are closed.