• Amy Toledano

Ugly by Perdita Stott

What is it? 

How old were you when you first thought you were ugly?

This show explores what it means to be "ugly" and how women come to such conclusions about themselves in today's society.

What is it about?

Perdita Stott and director Danae Cambrook work together to create this tableau style piece of theatre that looks at what "ugly" is and who decides what "ugly" means.

Five women take on various characters and personas and lament about their first (and sadly, not last) times of being called ugly. The pressure that is put on women to look and be a certain way, and the fact that as a woman, the way you look extends to so much more than just the exterior.

There are tales of too fat, too skinny, not blonde enough or too blonde, over expressive and under expressive, and much, much more. The Catch 22 of never being able to win, is made very apparent throughout.

How did it make me feel?

This type of show, is always difficult to pull off. With a no linear story, but instead short vignettes that represent the inner-most secrets held by most women.

The performances are all strong throughout, as the actors throw themselves into multiple roles and pushing themselves to transform and engage.

There are things that distracted me during the show however, that then further took away from allowing me to really suspend my belief during the piece. Structurally Ugly feels confused, with some actors being used (as multiple characters) in the first twenty minutes of the piece and others not until much later, which throws it off balance. There is also a slight bit of overkill in terms of metaphor and use of music. In a piece of this nature, a less is more approach would do wonders.

There is also a repetition that happens throughout, which works nicely but does not come at the end, even though it feels as if this would lend to the most satisfying and in a way, the most obvious resolution.

A lovely section however, is where a puppet is used to represent a small boy who has a love of nail varnish, and not only the ugliness other children see in this behaviour, but the ugliness that is brought out in his mother when she tells him he needs to remove it to fit in.

Another tableau that really stands out, is the section on performative sex. The women explain the way in which they do not expect their male partners to perform for them, but they do expect their partners to "watch their performance."

Anything Else?

This is a really important piece of theatre, and a subject matter I am personally invested in from the start. However, structurally this piece needs a revamp, to help it stand out in comparison with the number of other works with the same premise.

Amy x

Ugly is playing at Tristan Bates Theatre until the 2nd November 2019.

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