The Shape of Things (Anglais) Broché – 25 août 2001
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Texte court, rhytmé, et évolutif, The Shape of Things est une pièce des plus agréable à lire.
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To any mainstream critic who goes to plays and demands "positive" or "compassionate" endorsements of the received ideas we hold or our self-absorbed lives as we generally live them now, Labute has little to offer. Refreshingly free of such frothy, mindless cheer, the playwright instead skewers unquestioned contemporary notions of art's necessary beneficence and those of the glories of untrammeled individualism. Human nature and art, he reveals as satiric dramatist, are both larger and more problematic than such currently genteel, fashionable conceptions of them. Far from being "non-original" in his ideas, Labute more than any other current playwright provokingly calls into question the actual - not the putative - received ideas about art and life which are thought "cutting edge" in our time. If anyone writing drama today could produce a fully realized masterwork on the way we live now, I suspect it would be Neil Labute.
For all its appeals to modernity and student culture - post-modern art; makeovers; facial surgery; college; swearing; studenty soundtrack - 'The Shape Of Things' is surprisingly traditional fare, not too removed from the well-made plays of Terence Rattigan, or Shaw's dramas of ideas (Evelyn becomes Higgins to Adam's Eliza Doolittle), in which every element and loose end is neatly tied up. Each character represents a particular point-of-view (check out, for a start, those names), which is modified or developed as the thesis continues - each vignette proceeds intellectually, leading to a climax in which the leads declaim their positions at wordy length. This means that the character interplay, though present and involving, lacks the true forcefulness of a work like 'Your Friends And Neighbours'.
Behind the players are projected images from Western civilisation's visual treatment of the human body, from antiquity to anatomy to Magritte. This might seem to be pretentious padding, an attempt to add spurious depth to what is basically a sour college romance, but it actually works with the drama to achieve the devastating pay-off of The Revelation.
To be honest, Labute's ideas - about the impoverishment of post-modern art; the consequences of 'art for art's sake', or the crossing the line between life and art; about a culture that privileges image over decency, self-consciousness over relationships; the dangers of 'too much' civilisation or sophistication; the alienation (oh yes) of one's life as it is mediated by life, art and the media - aren't very original, though paradoxical enough to avoid seeming static. What is more enjoyable is the way the famous male monstrosity that characterised Labute's earlier work (e.g. 'In The Company Of Men'), has been transferred to a female character, whose spectacular callousness has you cheering her on in spite of yourself, and chills the post-'Nurse Betty' sentimental streak the playwright has difficulty in suppressing. The dialogue is as sharp, suggestive and funny as ever, with a great line about Picasso. And, yes, it's nice to see people like me on a stage for once.
Buy the book. You won't be sorry.