The Ugly One | Griffin Theatre CompanyLeft – Gig Clarke, Jo Turner and Eden Falk

The Ugly One
is the kind of play that probably isn’t for everyone, but if you like that kind of thing (‘that kind of thing’ being farcical German black comedy), it will be one of the most hilarious plays you’ve seen all year. I do like that kind of thing, and so I had a great evening out. Sarah Giles has directed a tight, caustic production that leaves a lasting impression (or possibly a scar).

Lette (Eden Falk) is incredibly ugly, but has managed to go his whole life without realising it. When he finally finds out, after being denied a major job by his younger, less qualified colleague (Gig Clarke), he becomes determined to do something about it. He and his wife (Jacinta Acevski) visit a cosmetic surgeon (Jo Turner), who works wonders. But being beautiful doesn’t turn out quite like Lette planned...

The Ugly One is a comedy, but it has a very, very dark heart, and if you took it seriously (if such a thing is possible), it would be horrifying. Writer Marius von Mayenburg has taken a major social preoccupation – wanting to be like everyone else, to fit in, and yet at the same time wanting to stand out – and dramatised it. It’s the kind of play you laugh at and cringe at all at once – it’s funny, yes, but if you didn’t laugh, you’d probably cry. We all know people like that. We are people like that.

Sarah Giles has done a great job as director. One of the reasons this play works so well is that all the actors commit fully to taking it seriously and play the humour totally straight. It’s the kind of text that would be tempting to over-embellish, and Giles has done a great job of keeping it pared down to the bones. I did feel the set design cut the actors off from the audience a little – one of the great joys of the SBW Stables theatre is its intimacy, and I didn’t see any reason for the actors to be overtly separated as they were, bracketed off by the diamond-shaped seats. However, this is only a small nitpick in what was a very enjoyable show. Particular mention must go to the first plastic surgery scene – especially to Gig Clarke’s spectacular vocal effects. Seriously, he’s better than any computer.

Those uncomfortable with black comedy or comedy which cuts a little too close to the bone probably won’t enjoy The Ugly One. If you’re not into that genre, it’s not for you. But if you are – or even if you haven’t quite made your mind up about it yet – then go and see it. It won’t take up much of your time (at 55 minutes, it’s on the shorter side, which is definitely not a bad thing) and it’ll make you think, and – far more importantly – make you laugh.

Griffin Theatre Company presents
The Ugly One
by Marius Von Mayenburg | translated by Maja Zade

Director Sarah Giles

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 23 November – 17 December 2011
Tickets: $30 – $15
Bookings: 02 9361 3817

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