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Review: The Ugly One, at Park Theatre 90

Four-strong cast give it their all in remarkably prescient production that has echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

16 June, 2017 — By Lucy Popescu

T’Nia Miller and Arian Nik in The Ugly One. Photo: Helen Maybanks

MARIUS von Mayenburg’s blistering satire about vanity and the dangers of a conformist society, written a decade before selfies became a way of life, is remarkably prescient.

Lette (Charlie Dorfman) cannot understand why his assistant Karlmann (Arian Nik) is being sent abroad in his stead to promote his latest invention – an electrical plug.

He is alarmed to learn that he is apparently so ugly that his boss (T’Nia Miller) won’t let him present his work.

When his wife Fanny (Indra Ové) admits that she can’t look him in the face, Lette employs a surgeon (Miller) to restructure his features. Suddenly he becomes irresistible to Fanny and a sexual magnet for men and women alike. He is in demand at work and by the surgeon who uses him to advertise his skills.

All too soon, however, Lette lookalikes begin to proliferate. His face and fame become a curse.

Von Mayenburg warns against prizing physical perfection over intelligence and his play retains its resonance. More than ever, people are stigmatised for not conforming to current fashions and tastes.

Roy Alexander Weise, winner of the 2016 James Menzies-Kitchin Award, directs with panache. The four-strong cast give it their all, although with a tendency to play for quick laughs.

There are echoes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, Edward Albee’s black humour and, in the play’s final moments, one cannot help but be reminded of President Trump’s rampant narcissism.

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