The Shape of Things is a dramatic small ensemble, produced by Heckin’ Good Theatre, and playing as part of the Dramatic Works Series at the VanCity Culture Lab. This show is very long, with a 100 minute running time, and it feels unnecessarily dragged out.
The opening set design was captivating, with a naked statue on a pillar, in what is clearly a museum or art gallery. A series of blocks were creatively used throughout the show, in probably the best set design I’ve ever seen at a Fringe show. Unfortunately the actors spent an inordinate amount of time setting them up between scenes.
The last third or quarter of The Shape of Things is excellent and fascinating, but it’s a shame that the road to get there was so protracted and clunky. Your mileage will vary on whether you think the ending is worth sticking it out for.
The purpose of the piece seems to be an examination of the concept of performance art, and where to draw the line between art versus other forms of behaviour. There are also interesting ideas here about boundaries, the need for connection and acceptance, and the negative/positive dichotomy of change. Unfortunately, the clear want to explore these ideas is lost in the execution, which does not substantively address its central topics until the very end, despite some early flirtations with these ideas. As a result, by the time there is any real engagement in these ideas, the show ends, and one is left to wonder what the first 75 minutes were spent doing.
The Shape of Things has some great ideas and themes, but they are buried under significant structural problems, very unnatural dialogue, and a severe lack of clear character motivations. Marissa Burton, who plays Jenny, admirably manages to overcome these difficulties and imbue her character with naturalism and believability.
I would go back to the drawing board with this piece and try to mould something new out of some great concepts.
The Shape of Things is playing at VanCity Culture Lab 6 - 16 September as part of the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.
~ reviewed by Vanessa Marshall
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