the ugly one

the ugly one
BY marius von mayenburg
Translation by Maja Zade

6 April - 23 April 2011, The Galleries, Metro Arts

Lette Kevin Spink
Fanny Kathryn Fray
Sheffler  Norman Doyle
Karlmann Dirk Hoult


Kat Henry

Set Designer Jessica Ross
Lighting Designer Hamish Clift
Sound Composition Jeremy Neideck
Executive Producer Kathryn Fray
Production Assistant Dirk Hoult
Producer Christopher Sommers
Stage Manager Charleen Marsters
Video Imagery

DeerHouse Pictures

Stills Photographer Belina Davis

'What if you have the face that EVERYONE ELSE wanted... '

The Ugly One is an audacious, witty and as sharp as a surgeon’s knife look at... well, our obsession with how we look. Lette has invented something revolutionary but discovers he is just too damn ugly to promote it. His wife admits he’s so ugly she can only look at him in his left eye. Enter a surgeon with a God complex and a talent for facial transformations and for a while Lette finally gets a life beyond his wildest dreams. Until everyone else changes their face to look like him…

THE UGLY ONE was premiered in the UK by The English Stage Company at the Royal Court Jerwood Upstairs on 13 September’07 directed by Ramin Gray.

For information on the playwright we recomend Alison Croggon's THEATRE NOTES

Images of the ugly one - april 2011

Dirk Hoult
Photo: Belinda Davis
Norman Doyle and Kevin Spink
Photo: Belinda Davis
Kathryn Fray and Kevin Spink
Photo: Belinda Davis
Kevin Spink
Photo: Belinda Davis

Review- the ugly one - BRISTIX

By guest reviewer David Owens

"I'll start with the nose because it's furthest from the face" - Scheffler

Arriving on the second floor of the !MetroArts building I was welcomed warmly by a lady in a white coat into a room equally antiseptic in its whiteness. Local video artists deerhouse production help establish an ambiance on arrival, painting the walls with projected video of constantly self-disfiguring faces. Other walls are adorned with segmented stills from local photographer Nikki Lake. Scars and open wounds pepper the walls and help frame the pictures and help set an eerie tone. 

Moments later the women in white-coats are back and guide us to our seats without so much as a “doctor will see you now”. Upon being seated you're welcomed (via muzak of the Kenny G variety) directly into a room as familiar as any doctor’s waiting room you've ever visited, minus the outdated copies of Woman's Day.

For someone who used to get queasy at Flying Doctors and A Country Practice I started to become a little nervous. Would I be subjected to endless discussions of sinew and sinus, bone and bodily functions? The lights dimmed and I could feel my stomach clench.

Hopefully a singular experience for anyone visiting the delightful new production at !MetroArts, THE UGLY ONE, and I’m happy to note my fear was misplaced. Despite a single scene which had me a little queasy the show is far more surgical in it’s deconstruction of our own fears and self doubt than of it’s cast members. 

This delightful modern combination of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein and a rather obscure Twilight Zone episode entitled “The Eye of the Beholder” is actually a translation of a German play by the young playwright Marius von Mayenberg. It details the story of a young scientist who, one day, discovers everyone around him finds him despicably unattractive. So unattractive in fact that almost the entire first act is dedicated to his boss, co-worker and wife coming up with ever more imaginative ways to describe his ugliness. It’s a kind of perverse “dead parrot sketch”. After a radical procedure is performed he becomes a sex symbol extraodinaire (and was it just me or does Lette bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain shiny-skinned sallow young man with pointed teeth?). 

THE UGLY ONE has a lot to say about identity and issues of body image but never feels like the sort of instructional video HPE teachers are forced to show to increasingly disturbed teenagers. Instead the play is infused with a delightfully genuine sense of humour. The translation retains much of the German sensibility and affection for word play and the cast is superb.

Director Kat Henry has done a delightful job with a play that with everyone running this way and that sometimes verges a little too close to farce. Instead of pulling back she allows these moments to breath which gives the intimate moments more clarity and focus when she pulls the actors in close. It’s affecting and disconcerting. The script calls for the actors to play multiple roles and while this was initially confusing it eventually gives way to a much richer discussion on identity made more powerful because of the earlier confusion. The sparse and whitewashed set design allows the actors to pull focus and to create worlds as diverse and distant as a conference on electrical equipment in Switzerland (that gets surprisingly sexual) to a small surgery room to an elevator trip that would make Tyler Durden proud.

For all of its large scale concerns and “world issues” THE UGLY ONE is a personal story and the intimate setting reflects the intimacy of the story. It’s about each and everyone of us and our relationship with the man in the mirror. 

review - the ugly one - Actor's greenroom

by Kate Foy

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the ugliest one of all?

I spent last night (Cheap Tuesday) in the theatre-company of lots of clever, good looking, thrifty people watching four other good-looking, artistic people playing Marius von Mayenburg‘s The Ugly One directed by Kat Henry. What a fun time we had watching other people watching us watching characters watching themselves – the production is set in one of !Metro Arts upstairs galleries, and the white seating around the thrust-configured playing area meant you could see every bit of the action up close – really up close – including certain … umm … thrust moments from the actors; some debate ensued post-show amongst the voyeurs in the audience as to who had the best or the worst view of said moments.

The Ugly One plays with notions of face value, and Jessica Ross cleverly exploits the play’s thematics as well as the challenges of the space in her design lit by Hamish CliftJeremy Neideck‘s sound composition of unseen, metallic, nerve-grinding operating room horrors complements the up-close and live wall-projections from the pov of  the patient while the bright, sterile-white performance area come forensic examination room creates the space and mood for a romp which, along the way, dissects society’s foibles and follies and hangs them out to dry.

With this show 23rd Productions has, once again, brought a gem of a play to Brisbane theatre. Thank the theatre gods for 23rd Productions, the little indie company that could and does. This was a canny choice for them. The Ugly One has been enormously successful in its native Germany, in the UK and elsewhere in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. The English translation by Maja Zade permits much freedom of stylistic interpretation – in Ms Henry’s case, a reading closer to the classic modern English Monty Pythonschool of farce, where wit and physicality combine to produce marvellous grotesquerie. It’s a great choice, and she gives her cast full rein to explore Von Mayenburg’s existential, farcical fable. The four-part ensemble company of experienced actors (Kevin SpinkKathryn FrayNorman Doyle and Dirk Hoult) are all terrific – playing multiple characters or variations of themselves with skill, intelligence and obvious relish.

Lette (Mr Spink) a widget-maker is ugly – horribly, dreadfully ugly – but he’s a really nice guy. His wife persuades him to become beautiful with a face change. He does, and the results are spectacularly successful; he is no longer shunned, he becomes an object of desire and his face becomes the most wanted in the world – he is transformed in more ways than one. What ensues is a hilarious post-modern comedy of manners which dishes up all its favourite obsessions for our delectation and demolition: celebrity, sex, avarice, power, money, greed, exploitation  …

As Chaplin once famously noted, ‘Comedy is a very serious business.’ Von Mayenburg’s morality tale is absolutely clear in its satiric intent – make ‘em laugh, but get ‘em all.

And who’s the ugliest one of all? We all are.