The Ugly One

Galway Youth Theatre present 'The Ugly One' by Marius von Mayenburg.

Galway Youth Theatre present 'The Ugly One' by Marius von Mayenburg.

Galway Youth Theatre present 'The Ugly One' by Marius von Mayenburg.

Galway Youth Theatre present 'The Ugly One' by Marius von Mayenburg.

A rising star in German Theatre, Marius von Mayenburg gives us the “unspeakably ugly” Mr. Lette, inventor of a plug known as the 2CK Convertor. Lette (O hAoláin) is astonished to find out that he will not be presenting the appliance at an upcoming convention: his assistant Karlmann (Tierney) has been chosen instead. When he confronts his boss, Scheffler (O’Meara), Lette finds out that he’ll never be able to sell the plug because his face is “unacceptable”. Having lived most of his life blissfully ignorant of his unfortunate condition, Lette’s wife Fanny (Harris) confirms the truth. Hence, he decides to undergo cosmetic surgery - even though Scheffler the plastic surgeon (Murtagh) is less than hopeful about the end result.

Veering from absurd humour to gothic horror, The Ugly One offers an over-the-top satire on contemporary image-obsession. GYT’s approach was aptly stylised and exaggerated. While von Mayenburg’s script repeats dialogue and character names (as well as two Schefflers, the play contains two Karlmanns and four Fannys), the skilled cast contributed to the sense of conformity and superficiality; delivering the sometimes ludicrous lines in patronising, melodic tones, the actors expertly conveyed samey, self-obsessed individuals who, ironically, don’t know who they are. O hAoláin was excellent as the hapless, impressionable Lette, while O’Meara was comically suave and dismissive as Scheffler the boss. Fitzsimons’ lighting was in keeping with the piece’s mood: it was mostly glaringly bright, but, during the production’s eerier moments, it created a suitable chiaroscuro effect.

Galway Youth Theatre present 'The Ugly One' by Marius von Mayenburg.A cast of four played multiple parts in the play’s English premiere at the Royal Court in 2007. However in this, its first Irish production, director Andrew Flynn infused the work with his trademark sense of spectacle. Like last year’s Tarry Flynn and Yellow Moon, Flynn’s direction of The Ugly One celebrated performance in its many mediums: with nine actors, a chorus and live pianist Robbie Howell, this interpretation included singing, dancing, masks and strobe lighting. While this might seem like gratuitous showiness, these techniques fitted seamlessly with the play’s themes and subject matter.

Hilariously mimicking film and television, the production opened and closed with ‘credits’ accompanied by a ‘theme tune’: the cast performed Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, creating a vibrant, choreographed introduction and conclusion. The stage area was a rectangular strip with the viewers at each side and, as the players danced across it, they showcased Breathnach’s colourful costumes which helped to typecast each role. The actors took turns assuming spot-lit poses in the arched exits at each end of Moroney’s set, holding signs bearing the names of their characters. These cheesy images offered a sardonic riff on popular culture - although, viewed from the far side of the auditorium, the angle made it difficult to see those vignettes happening on the same side.

Ultimately, however, GYT’s production of von Mayenberg’s farce on fakery yielded a triumph of spectacle that was both clever and uplifting. The performance blended great entertainment, unsettling provocation and hilarious comedy, injected with GYT’s exuberant energy and Flynn’s eclectic vision.

Siobhán O’Gorman is currently completing a doctoral research project on gender and the canon in contemporary theatre at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

  • Review
  • Theatre

The Ugly One by Marius von Mayenburg

11 - 17 April, 2011

Produced by Galway Youth Theatre
In Nuns Island Theatre

Directed by Andrew Flynn

Lighting Design: Adam Fitzsimons

Music: Robbie Howell

Costume Design: Petra Bhreathnach

Scenic Painter: Ger Sweeney

With: Féilim O hAoláin, Kate Harris, Louise O’Meara, Oisín Tierney, Rob Murtagh