It seems Sydney has gone crazy for German playwrights. Marius Von Mayenburg is the latest to get an outing in his play The Ugly One, staged at Griffin theatre and directed by Sarah Giles.
The Ugly One explores the idea of the contemporary obsession with physical appearance in a snappy sardonic 55 minutes. It was nice to see Eden Falk back on stage after the soul-destroying-overkill years of the Sydney Theatre Company’s Ensemble almost had everyone from the Ensemble banished from Sydney forever.
The Ugly One tells the story of a man so ugly, his wife can’t look him in the face but is forced to only address him by looking above his left eye and his boss won’t let him represent the company in public. His ugliness, a surprise to him, forces our intrepid main character to seek out the modern day solution to physical obstacles to success- plastic surgery. With a new beautiful face, he becomes adored, cloned and subsequently we see his personality morph into the new ‘ugly one’. Eden Falk is easy to engage with. He has natural stage presence and we can’t help enjoying his bewilderment and eventual vanity.
Sarah Giles does a pretty solid job in bringing this elongated sketch to life and even though I’d say the almost hour of the show felt like it had stretched the premise, Giles and her cast and team make the most of this material and I certainly enjoyed this more than the last thing I saw of Von Mayenburg’s- his collaboration with Benedict Andrews in Moving Target.
What the play does do well and is helped by a solid cast is its ability to capture the rhythm of the play in the firing of quick dialogue like an episode of The West Wing. Stand out performer for me was Jacinta Acevski in her transformational acting, vocal and physical control and expression. But the whole cast are enjoyable and skilled in execution and there is a lovely feel of complicite in the ensemble. The experience of actor Jo Turner probably aided this young cast to hit the beats of the play.
Michael Hankin’s design was certainly interesting in its reflection of the audience space. I’m not sure it really enhanced the play but I did feel like I was attending a workshop with friends and this was heightened by the greeting of the audience by Gig Clarke as we entered.
This is one of those plays you come out saying, ‘that was fun’ but can also be a bit of a throwaway play in its ability to disappear from your consciousness fairly quickly.
But watch out for Sarah Giles. I think she is a director on the rise and I look forward to her other offerings in the future.