Review: The Ugly One (AllEntertainment)

Cast of The Ugly One David Gaffney (top), Ellie Waddingham, David O’Donoghoe, and Jai Selva. Image supplied.

AllEntertainment presented German playwright Marius von Mayenburg’s social satire The Ugly One, translated by Maja Zade, at Brisbane’s newest theatre venue. Fast-paced and funny, the one-act play was delivered with earnest absurdity by the cast of four, directed by Calum Johnston.

Protagonist Lette is an engineer, but his company won’t allow him to present his new invention in Switzerland because he is deemed, in the words of his wife, unspeakably ugly. This is a new revelation for Lette, and one which preoccupies him until he seeks the help of a plastic surgeon. With a new face, Lette’s opportunities are transformed – not only is he sent to the convention in Switzerland, but he begins an affair with a wealthy septuagenarian, among many others. Wherever Lette goes, women want him and men want to be him. Unfortunately, the latter is becoming a reality as Lette’s surgeon begins recreating his new face for clients all over the city.

The Ugly One is a commentary on beauty, vanity, and conformity, wherein beauty is presented as a currency, but also as a state of being that can be bought and sold. This translation premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2007 and the play has perhaps become even more relevant since then, given the increased normalisation and uptake of cosmetic surgeries in the past decade or so. von Mayenburg’s script is sharp and snappy, filled with repetition of phrases that echoed and evolved throughout the hour-long performance.

The Ugly One was the inaugural production for new Brisbane theatre venue, PIP Theatre in the centre of Milton, and the staging of the performance was very engaging. Physical blocking created boundaries and occasional slapstick comedy, live sound effects were generated for the surgery itself, and the actors occasionally entered and exited through the audience space.

The setting was minimalist, with a few simple props and costume pieces used to swap between characters and locations, all handled by the cast. The lighting design was especially notable, creating smooth scene transitions, contributing in effective ways to the play’s action and setting, and adding to the humour of certain moments by interacting with shadows and props.

Four actors – David Gaffney, Ellie Waddingham, David O’Donoghoe, and Jai Selva – played seven characters throughout the play. Minor costume adjustments and distinct characterisation ensured that each transition was clear. There was no change to the appearance or costuming of Gaffney in the role of Lette, before and after the facial surgery, which emphasised the idea of physical beauty as socially constructed . All of the actors had excellent comedic timing and were fully committed to the physical performance in all of its absurdity.

Allentertainment’s The Ugly One was a tightly-packed and highly entertaining hour of comedy and commentary, performed with excellent comedic timing and theatrical skill by its cast of four.

The Ugly One will play at PIP Theatre, Milton, from 1 – 9 July 2022.

For ticketing and further information, visit the PIP Theatre website

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: