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Review of Ugly Lovely at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Ffion Jones and Sophie Hughes in Ugly Lovely (c) Velvet Trumpet
Ffion Jones and Sophie Hughes in Ugly Lovely (c) Velvet Trumpet

Ugly Lovely is Ffion Jones’s debut play and tells the story of Shell (Ffion Jones) who, on the eve of her 26th birthday, feels her life is at a dead end and yearns to leave the “pretty shitty city” of Swansea for the bright lights of Liverpool. Her feeling of desperation has been compounded by the recent death of her beloved nan and her unhappy relationship with a long-term boyfriend who regularly cheats on her and disappears for days on end. Shell is also struggling without her young son who is currently residing with her mother.

The play begins with Shell and her best mate, Tash (Sophie Hughes), nearing the end of a raucous night out celebrating Shell’s birthday. Though they are longtime friends they haven’t seen each other for a while and Tash is in for a few surprises as Shell brings her up to date with her news and tells her of her dream to move away from Swansea to which Tash responds “but where else can you go bird? All we’ve got is Swansea. You haven’t got nowhere else”…

We then move on to Shell’s birthday and her waking up with a raging hangover before having a conversation with her prized possession – an urn containing her nan’s ashes. Shell’s mood brightens when on tidying up her flat she finds a dolphin snow globe which she assumes is a birthday present from her erstwhile boyfriend, sadly she later finds out this was not meant for her – it was won at the fair and he is going to give it to the girl he was currently seeing behind Shell’s back. Feeling desperate she meets up with an old flame (Robyn – Oliver Morgan-Thomas) and enjoys a violent one night stand with him. Although she kind of enjoys this it does not really make her feel any better about her life and only really makes her more determined than ever to move on.

Ffion Jones script is sparky and manages to convey great humour and laugh-out-loud moments in what could be quite depressing scenes. Ffion Jones and Sophie Hughes work very well together, their delivery is impeccable with both showing great comic timing and facial expressions when necessary.

They also manage to make convincing drunks as they spend quite a few scenes staggering around the stage on high heels! There are a few shouty, sweary and violent conversations which coupled with some frank and raw dialogue between the two girls helps to make their enduring friendship and difficult situations in life even more believable. Oliver Morgan-Thomas (Robyn) complements to two girls well in what is a smaller role.

Nikolai Ribnikov’s direction is pacey. The production makes full use of Lizzy Leech’s set, together with Andrew Reynolds’ sound and George Bach’s lighting helps you understand the sorry plight the girls (particularly Shell) are in.

Whilst the final scene is painfully realistic the play’s end is both touching and thought-provoking.

4 stars

Review by Karen Pond


“But where else can you go bird? All we’ve got is Swansea. You haven’t got nowhere else.”
It’s Shell’s birthday and cradling her only gift, won at the local arcade, she’s finally woken up to smell the vodka. Between nights out with her only friend and chats with her Nan’s ashes, she tries to unravel what she wants from life in the pretty shitty city of Swansea. Velvet Trumpet present work that is dark, bittersweet and above all funny. They are proud to present this grimy debut play by excitable Welsh playwright Ffion Jones.

Cast and Creatives
Shell – Ffion Jones
Tash – Sophie Hughes
Robyn – Oliver Morgan-Thomas
Written by Ffion Jones
Director – Nikolai Ribnikov
Set and Costume Design – Lizzy Leech
Lighting Design – George Bach
Sound Design – Andrew Reynolds
Assistant Director – Rob Henderson
Stage Manager – Jennifer McTaggart

28th June – 16th July 2016
Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30pm
Saturday & Sunday matinees 3pm


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