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The Ugly One review at Tron Theatre, Glasgow – ‘style over substance’

The cast of The Ugly One at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: John Johnston
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Debbie Hannan’s production of Marius von Mayenburg’s 2007 satire about beauty, capitalism and the pressure to conform is certainly pleasing to the eye.

Becky Minto’s stylish and contemporary set consists of pull-out windows, wheeled out with the actors standing inside them like mannequins, minimalist furniture and a multi-purpose conveyor belt.  The actors wear similarly stylish pastel uniforms, and Katharine Williams’ matching lighting picks out the face of whoever is centre stage.

Martin McCormick plays Lette, the hotshot inventor of in-vogue energy connectors. He’s told by his boss (Helen Katamba) that he is too ugly to sell them. His wife and colleague (Sally Reid and Michael Dylan) agree, confirming his need for a complete face transplant – and a beautiful monster is born (though the actor’s appearance never changes).

Hannan’s production is not subtle, but then neither is the play. The pacing lags in places and the timing of the performances could be tighter. The cast is meant to move in unison but this is not alway the case.

There’s a fruit-surgery scene that’s not for the squeamish and an outrageous love-making scene between Reid and Dylan (both fantastic) that draws raucous laughter. The committed performances of the cast drive things forward. But ironically it’s the incredibly stylish design that makes most of the impact.

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Stylish but superficial Scottish premiere of Marius Von Mayenburg's satirical play