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Review of Buckland Theatre Company’s The Ugly One

TNia Miller Scheffler and Arian Nik Karlmann in The Ugly One Credit Helen Maybanks
T’Nia Miller as Scheffler and Arian Nik as Karlmann – Credit Helen Maybanks

The Ugly One is a great night of theatre, directed by Roy Alexander Weise with humour and gusto this production is a masterclass in snappy creative direction and extraordinary performances from the cast.

The play centres on Lette (Charlie Dorfman) and the unfolding events after he discovers that he is ‘unspeakably ugly.’ Right up until that moment Lette was happily married, ambitious, focussed at work and blissfully unaware he was facially challenged. Once his wife, Fanny (Indra Ové) confirms, that yes, he really is hard on the eye, he makes drastic changes to his appearance that impact on every aspect of his life. The monster becomes a God becomes a monster.

Although the plot is to some extent predictable, it’s the storytelling that excels in this play. Marius von Mayenburg has written an absurdist comedy about vanity, individuality and human worth that teeters into the surreal. It could fray on your nerves, but the pace is kept just right. The cast exploit all the comedy and absurdity of each scene and segue between characters, location with clarity and conviction. There are a few scenes towards the end where surrealism is stretched maybe a little too far – but that’s a small quibble for such a strong energetic piece of theatre.

Both T’nia Miller as Scheffler and Arian Nik as Karlmann (making his professional stage debut) are both fantastically watchable. There’s all kinds of fun on this production playing with gender and power relationships, something these two seem to relish. Indra Ové is absolutely in her element in this production and lights up the stage. It’s a fearless, out-there comedic performance which was thrilling to watch.

The set is simple and effective and works well for keeping a contemporary work based feel. The use of multi-media within the play is one of the best examples I’ve seen – it’s not gratuitous, doesn’t interrupt – but adds to the depth of the play.

This is biting dark satire directed with real comedic precision that asks relevant questions about the importance of being beautiful.

4 stars

Written by Marius von Mayenburg, The Ugly One is a savage social satire about the dangers of living in a society with oppressive beauty standards. Translated by Maja Zade, it tells the story of Lette, a talented engineer who is labelled as ugly and so goes to extreme lengths to change his appearance.

The Ugly One debuted at the Royal Court ten years ago and this anniversary revival is directed by 2016 JMK award winner Roy Alexander Weise (The Mountaintop, Young Vic). The production stars Charlie Dorfman (Lette), T’Nia Miller as Scheffler, Arian Nik as Karlmann and Indra Ové as Fanny.

The Ugly One
1 – 24 Jun 2017
PArk Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP


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