This site-specific production of Neil LaBute's The State of Things
takes place, like the play's opening and closing scenes, in an art gallery. I'd kind of assumed this meant we'd be in for a promenade performance but in fact it's a very small space, half of which has been set apart with cushions on the floor for the audience to sit on. So I spent most of the first half with pins and needles in my legs (it was leg day at the gym as well, so that won't have helped) but fortunately I was near a wall so was able to reposition myself more comfortably over the interval. Best to make sure your body's comfortable eh, as it's a LaBute play so body, and especially body image, is going to be important. Adam is an overweight, badly-dressed student, a failure with women but accepting of his lot in life. When he meets Evelyn, who's in the process of spray-painting a cock and balls onto a statue of god, they get into a relationship and he starts to change - losing a couple of stone in weight, becoming more stylish and even getting a nose job. But as he gets studlier is he getting uglier inside as he starts lying to and cheating on his friends? And what exactly is Evelyn's ulterior motive?
LaBute's not exactly known for giving you warm fluffy feelings about humanity and the same is true here; what you do get is a lot of food for thought and plenty of uncomfortable laughs. Andrew Nolan is another cutie to have trained at LAMDA
- I swear their admissions interviews must include a swimsuit round. He manages the very tricky role of Adam who's got to find a balance between the essentially geeky, shy person we meet at the start and the betrayals he's willing to make as he becomes more confident. One reason he mostly retains our sympathy is that Tom Attenborough's production encourages us to see him as not in control of his own life, while Lucy Marks' sociopathic Evelyn is surely the ultimate example of another LaBute theme, of how people's relationships are predominantly about manipulation. In the supporting roles of Adam's friends, Edward Rowett and Katy Marks are another couple who are together for reasons even they would probably struggle to understand, having fallen into a relationship with someone completely inappropriate and doggedly stuck with it.
The actors' American accents are all fine, although one thing that bothered me a bit was the line deliveries, which were slightly slower and more measured than it felt like the dialogue required. I couldn't decide if it was a deliberate directorial decision to have them dwell slightly longer on lines designed to be snapped out at speed, or if it was just the actors not being able to maintain their accents at that pace. It sort of worked, which is why I don't entirely discount the former option. Otherwise this is worth a look, a characteristically dark heart in a shiny white space.The Shape of Things
by Neil LaBute is booking until the 6th of March at The Gallery Soho.