Review: Under Glass Production’s ‘The Shape Of Things’ @ The Annex 16/03/2023


Under Glass Production’s ‘The Shape Of Things’ will take you on a rollercoaster of spite, jealousy, heartfelt longing, and a deep dive into the examination of our human desire to reach that unattainable goal… perfection of the self.

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Upon hearing that Theatre Group was going to commission an independent show this year, I admit I felt a twinge of excitement at the thought of an unadulterated directing vision in its full glory on the Annex stage. It’s clear that the whole production team has put their heart and soul into this project.

Let us first address the staging of the play. Directors Kat Fevyer and Michael Scanlon have created a simple but extremely effective set design that holds your attention throughout the show. When you enter the theatre, you are greeted by a stark contrast of white and pink flats, which stand out in front of the black tabs. Its minimalistic design not only lends to the art gallery setting that the play is centered around, but it also subconsciously informs your viewing of the scene. In moments of conflict or peace, or sometimes both, you are constantly being shown if a character is insecure, in a position of control, or diminishment, based entirely on their positioning in front of a white or pink colour. I would encourage you to sit directly in the middle as one of my favourite moments took place when Adam, played brilliantly by Zayn Khan, was fixed between the two colours, all the while being incapable of making up his own mind.

Set changes were fluid and the ingenious inclusion of the production team as art students who change exhibits in the background meant the immersion of the play was never broken. The slow, gradual display of Adam’s personal effects and belongings as his relationship with Evelyn deepens, was another part of the production that kept me transfixed throughout. I cannot reveal too much about that ending, but the snowballing intrigue built by this motif has a massive payoff for attentive audience members.

Technical Director Jonathan Ferguson and StageSoc have also once again done a wonderful job in the Annex. The use of intelligent lighting was also a welcome sight, allowing for seamless transitions between the scenes.

Outside of the finale (which we will get to in a second), the highlight set piece for me was the very first gallery piece you are greeted with, a stone statue and a rope. All I will say (again without giving too much away), is that a spray-paint can is involved. The scene breaks the conventional rules of turning the actor out to the audience to deliver an interesting opening that encapsulates what this play is all about: art needs a line to define itself and are we as audience members willing to cross it?

Kat Fevyer and Michael Scanlon have precisely choreographed and designed each scene to give you a feast of naturalistic movement, which enables the audience to feel part of the production and engage with the many heated conversations exploring the meaning of art. There were points when actors were onstage before the play had begun, or lingered long after during the interval, which made me as feel as if I were peering into their world, watching the spectacle of it as all the characters’ lives descended into disarray.

The actors were also perfectly cast in their respective roles. Evelyn, played by the electric Charlotte Connelly leaves conversations iced over and cold in a perfect commanding tone. There are so many facets to Connelly’s portrayal of the character: her endearing care for Adam (her love interest), and her no-nonsense attitude, described by Evelyn herself as “straightforward”. Yet there are moments where she does the complete opposite, baiting Adam into further transformations of his physical and mental personality. Connelly’s Evelyn is transactional, always seeking to gain something from a situation or someone, never releasing her grip on the scene, and further emphasised by her passionate speeches on what art is and what it means to her.

Zayn Khan’s Adam strikes a perfect balance between being helplessly and adorably insecure, whilst also possessing a genuine hope or desire to find real human meaning in his life. If it is Evelyn that drives the philosophy of the play, then Adam is its emotional core and often times I would sit in my seat reveling at Khan’s ability to create such a fully realised character onstage. It would be an understatement to sum up Khan’s portrayal with “I’m so whipped” (although it was one of my favourite lines). His performance goes far beyond that, as locked within Khan is a naïve hopeless romantic, desperately trying to free himself, all the while being repressed in the most problematic way possible, limiting his ability to find happiness.

Pietro Andreotti’s Phillip was a hilarious and well-needed jovial break from the heavy topics of the play. With hilarity, and to great effect, Andreotti embodies the stereotypical alpha male that we are all very well acquainted with, clashing against Connelly’s Evelyn in another one of my favourite scenes. However, as the play went on, I began to see more levels within Phillip that I was not expecting. Andreotti’s explosive anger towards the other characters at points was terrifying and intimidating, making me jump out of my seat. But more interestingly, through the breakdown of Phillip’s relationship with Jenny (his love interest), Andreotti displays a sense of regret and longing to reunite with his friend Adam. This does not totally redeem his actions but serves as the perfect way to transform him into a fully developed character.

Katy Halliwell’s Jenny brought so much humanity and compassion to the play. Similar to Phillip in her ability to deliver a much-needed break from the tension, Halliwell’s empathy made her captivating to watch. Outside of the finale, Halliwell’s appearance onstage leads to some of my favourite scenes in the whole show. Her chemistry with Khan’s Adam is near-perfect in its sweet awkwardness during private moments when they are alone together. It contrasts so nicely against the submissive dynamic that Adam has with Connelly’s Evelyn and makes the ending ultimately all the more heartbreaking. A stand-out moment of the entire show was Halliwell exiting stage left, having been defeated by Evelyn’s stand-offish nature, only to come flying back on with the declaration that she was, in fact, a good person.

Of course, I cannot leave this review without talking about that ending. There are no spoilers in this review, which is frustrating since the finale of the play is the climax and pinnacle of everything that its writer, Neil Labute, is trying to convey and get us to contemplate. I did know the twist going into the performance (and I would solidly recommend that you keep yourself spoiler free since the emotional piledrive that awaits you will hit all the harder). However, despite this, I think it’s a testament to Scanlon and Fevyer’s work that the impact of said scene was not lessened for me.

Throughout the entire final section of the play, my heart was in my throat and my hand was clasped over my mouth. The placement of certain characters at that moment keeps you riveted and makes you a part of Evelyn’s final art project. At moments you almost want to leap out of your seat to scream “Is anyone going to stop her?!” But all you can do is watch on in dread.

The entire production team: Charis Heaven, Emily Norman, Tezni Williams, Sophie Gardner, Charlie Shaw, and Emma Leeson, should get a huge round of applause for their contribution to this project. It has paid off in droves. A huge congratulations once again to the Directors and the actors. Your work has left a lingering question in my mind. To what extent can one define art and what is the human cost?

See ‘The Shape Of Things’ by Neil LaBute @ The Annex Theatre on March 17th & 18th. You can buy tickets by following the link here. Watch the trailer below:


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