The Ugly One - Reviews
This short fantasy play -– it ran for about an hour — concerned the current over-obsession with external beauty. It was followed by Your Face, Your Fortune, a “live happening” in the bar. As I was not able to stay for this it is hoped that others may be able to comment on it.
The central character, Lette, believes himself to be “normal” but is in fact unspeakably ugly, a truth that has escaped him all his life. Even his wife, who loves him dearly as a person, can only view him sideways-on by looking at his left eye only. When they first met and bedded his face was obscured by oil. Following the revelation of his ugliness he resorts to plastic surgery and his face is turned into a thing of beauty.
At first the transformation gives him fame and makes his fortune but things turn sour as more and more people have the same surgery. The effect of this produces clones that deprive him of his fame and identity. His subsequent despair drives him almost to the point of suicide.
The play concludes on a note of high narcissism that leads to a ménage a trois between Lette, the Mother and the Son.
As Lette, Andy Bell really inhabited the character, giving an extraordinary strong performance that developed the multi-faceted character changes. His cross talking act with himself at his darkest moment was a tour de force. This performance must rank as one of his best
The other seven parts were shared by the other three actors. Katie Grace Cooper slipped easily between her differing personas – the loving wife, the surgeon’s assisting nurse and president of a big company. Each part was perfectively defined and her sense of comedy was delightful in the early scenes where she avoids looking directly at Lette.
Christian Clifford-Walsh was provided with a chance to prove his versatility by the variation he provided in playing two not dissimilar roles – as Lette’s ambitious colleague he was suitable snide and devious whilst his mother dominated gay was almost reptilian at times.
Completing the cast and making his debut was Chris Jenkins, a product it would appear of the NVT’s acting classes. His portrayals of Lette’s buffoon boss and the camp plastic surgeon were more cartoonish in characterisation contrasted with the “reality” of the others.
I understand that directing the play for Mike Stubbs was not without its problems and that Mark Wilson offered assistance. Any such problems were totally absent from the finished work. Skilful direction ensured that the performance flowed freely. Changes of locations and character occurred seamlessly as the actors moved from the audience to integrate with the on-stage action. An inventive touch was having the operation carried out by the doctor and the nurse in the posturing style of a conjurer and his lovely assistant – pure farce.
Not for the first time a minimalist set proved to be most effective. On this occasion the use of white drapes, a chair and lighting was all that was needed to enhance the acting.
This play replaced the planned production of “Heroes”. Knowing the quality of that play I hope that a place will be found for it in a future season.
17 January 2010
'The Ugly One' was followed in the bar by 'Your Face, Your Fortune', a collaboration between performance artists Tamar Daly and Sara Popowa, where, through photography and masks, rather than surgery, the audience could change their own faces, explore their identities and further develop issues raised in the play.
Your Face, Your Fortune is stylish, well played and well choreographed. The energy and interplay between Daly and Popowa as performers, combines with a mix of technology and sticky paper to define and drive this work where photographs of the audience are printed onto masks with press-out, peel-off features.
How does it then feel to then see the results of moving your own features on a mask of you face, or exchanging your features with another’s? Build comic, or tragic, composite identities that would confuse the most sophisticated facial recognition software. Maybe even try to test the town centre CCTV operators’ skills on the way home?
It is reassuring that in these times of often over complex computer solutions, Daly and Popowa have brought together the very different components of Your Face, Your Fortune without letting the technology distract from the essential fun of their performance.