The Ugly One
- Lorna Irvine
- 9 July 2019
New revival focuses on sex and narcissism
German playwright Marius Von Mayenburg's play, translated by Maja Zade, riffs on the term 'plug ugly'. Lette (Martin McCormick) is so hideously unattractive that his wife Fanny (Sally Reid) refers euphemistically to his other good qualities, but can hardly look at him. Meanwhile, he's refused big perks and promotions at work in a plug company. But cosmetic surgery turns him into a preening narcissist, and a new set of problems emerge: he is so beautiful that everyone wants the same face as him, and vanity spreads like a virus.
Debbie Hannan does fine things with the energetic, pop culture literate direction, referencing everything from haute couture to Janelle Monae's anthems to empowerment.
Becky Minto's witty, clinical set resembles a dystopian Gap store from the not so distant future. The cast of four are tremendous fun, particularly an uproarious Michael Dylan as Karimann, Lette's embittered co-worker. He has impeccable comic timing, knowing when to strut like a diva, and when to simply arch an eyebrow.
However, Mayenburg's script is somewhat flawed. It's like satire at its most sour, but diluted by a farcical broadness, meaning any points about homogeneity within the beauty industry feel less than effective.
It seems like going over old ground, from Frankenstein to The Stepford Wives, with little new to say about affirmation through aesthetic appeal. But there are moments of scalpel-like precision, as with the wonderfully grotesque fruit surgery scene, and Lette's epiphany where self-love is taken to ridiculous new extremes.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 20 Jul.