Review: The Ugly One – 23rd Productions


Image: Sean Young

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the ugliest one of all?

I spent last night (Cheap Tuesday) in the theatre-company of lots of clever, good looking, thrifty people watching four other good-looking, artistic people playing Marius von Mayenburg‘s The Ugly One directed by Kat Henry. What a fun time we had watching other people watching us watching characters watching themselves – the production is set in one of !Metro Arts upstairs galleries, and the white seating around the thrust-configured playing area meant you could see every bit of the action up close – really up close – including certain … umm … thrust moments from the actors; some debate ensued post-show amongst the voyeurs in the audience as to who had the best or the worst view of said moments.

The Ugly One plays with notions of face value, and Jessica Ross cleverly exploits the play’s thematics as well as the challenges of the space in her design lit by Hamish CliftJeremy Neideck‘s sound composition of unseen, metallic, nerve-grinding operating room horrors complements the up-close and live wall-projections from the pov of  the patient while the bright, sterile-white performance area come forensic examination room creates the space and mood for a romp which, along the way, dissects society’s foibles and follies and hangs them out to dry.

With this show 23rd Productions has, once again, brought a gem of a play to Brisbane theatre. Thank the theatre gods for 23rd Productions, the little indie company that could and does. This was a canny choice for them. The Ugly One has been enormously successful in its native Germany, in the UK and elsewhere in Australia, and it’s not hard to see why. The English translation by Maja Zade permits much freedom of stylistic interpretation – in Ms Henry’s case, a reading closer to the classic modern English Monty Python school of farce, where wit and physicality combine to produce marvellous grotesquerie. It’s a great choice, and she gives her cast full rein to explore Von Mayenburg’s existential, farcical fable. The four-part ensemble company of experienced actors (Kevin Spink, Kathryn Fray, Norman Doyle and Dirk Hoult) are all terrific – playing multiple characters or variations of themselves with skill, intelligence and obvious relish.

Lette (Mr Spink) a widget-maker is ugly – horribly, dreadfully ugly – but he’s a really nice guy. His wife persuades him to become beautiful with a face change. He does, and the results are spectacularly successful; he is no longer shunned, he becomes an object of desire and his face becomes the most wanted in the world – he is transformed in more ways than one. What ensues is a hilarious post-modern comedy of manners which dishes up all its favourite obsessions for our delectation and demolition: celebrity, sex, avarice, power, money, greed, exploitation  …

As Chaplin once famously noted, ‘Comedy is a very serious business.’ Von Mayenburg’s morality tale is absolutely clear in its satiric intent – make ’em laugh, but get ’em all.

And who’s the ugliest one of all? We all are.


The Ugly One
by Marius von Mayenburg
Translation by Maja Zade
Directed by Kat Henry
Featuring: Norman Doyle, Kathryn Fray, Dirk Hoult and Kevin Spink
Set Design: by Jessica Ross
Lighting Design: by Hamish Clift
Sound Composition: by Jeremy Neideck

Wednesday 6 to Saturday 23 April, 2011
Preview: Tuesday 5 April, 7:30pm
Opening: Wednesday 6 April, 7:30pm
Artist Talk: Wednesday 13 April – join the actors and crew for a drink and post show chat.
When: Tuesday to Thursday, 7:30pm
Friday to Saturday, 7pm and 9pm
Where: Metro Arts Galleries
Tickets: Adults $25/ Conc. $22/ Preview $15/ Group (10+) $15
Cheap Tuesdays: $15 (door sales only)

Bookings: (07) 3002 7100 or


Kat Henry (Interview 16)

Photo: Kat Henry

Much of the talk in town and on the interwebs right now concerns gender equity in the theatre. Women playwrights and directors and actors continue to battle what many are calling, perhaps intemperately – but who can blame them – ‘the boys’ club.’ It’s not just here either; American and British women have their dander up as well.

When a woman succeeds in securing a paid job as a director or actor, or when she wins an award for playwrighting, then it’s cause for celebration. So it was last week when expatriate Brisbane writer (she now lives in Melbourne) Shannon Murdoch won the prestigious Yale Drama Series award for her play New Light Shine. As they used to say before digital technologies arrived to spread news in a flash, ‘the wires hummed’ with the news. Shannon was congratulated, contacted, and readings were being set up just-like-that. Hoorah! I’m told New Light Shine was one of the ‘must see’ works at this year’s National Play Festival. I wonder if it has been secured for an Australian production yet and, if so, who will direct? Whatever the answers, it’s a thrill to see Shannon Murdoch’s work being recognised in this way.

There are two women directors currently at work in Brisbane on productions: Andrea Moor on Water Falling Down for Queensland Theatre Company, and Kat Henry on The Ugly One by Marius von Mayenburg for the independent company 23rd Productions.  Greenroom interviewed Andrea last year when she was working on Tender – you can read the review here. I was delighted to meet Kat Henry a week or so ago at the theatre and to get her to agree to an interview. Continue reading Kat Henry (Interview 16)

An open letter: World Theatre Day 2011

Dear Theatre Colleague,

World Theatre Day is March 27!

For 3 years now, I have been involved along with other facilitator-colleagues for World Theatre Day. Under the auspices of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), World Theatre Day (WTD) is celebrated annually on the 27th March by the international theatre community. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion. We would like to invite you to join the party!

The World Theatre Day blog has been updated for 2011, and, as with the last two years, will become a virtual hub for sharing World Theatre Day celebrations from all over the world.

If you need ideas about how you can celebrate World Theatre Day in your community, please visit here, in the first instance, for ideas to get you started. Continue to follow along with the blog or via Facebook or on Twitter @WTD11 You’ll find more ideas there as the days roll by and news about how other theatre artists around the world will mark World Theatre Day 2011.

Prior to March 27, we’d love to hear how you are planning to celebrate. You can share your information easily by going to the WTD11 submissions page You can also use this same form to share your actual celebrations on March 27. Please include a photo or a link to a YouTube video so we can share your celebrations with the world! Here’s a sample of the kind of thing you can do – it’s a little video made at the after-show party for That Face a couple of years ago.

The meme in 2009 was to focus on the question ‘What does theatre mean to you?’


That night, 23rd productions did a backstage walkthrough and interval interviews around their then-playing production of The Pillowman.


This is that audience’s response to the meme.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a video; you can upload pictures, audio files or just write and share what you did in words. The important thing is to celebrate along with the rest of the world. Get inspired!

For the past 3 years Queensland artists and companies have led off the global celebrations from midnight on March 27th. Perhaps this year New Zealand will get in first! There’s a challenge! The bonus for the first cabs off the rank is that the fun of World Theatre ‘Day’ actually goes on much longer!

We in Queensland look forward to sharing and celebrating with you!

Kate Foy (Editor Greenroom)

This Week in Queensland Theatre: April 19-25

The famous Droeshout portrait of William Shake...
Image via Wikipedia

For showtimes see company websites


Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett Dir Joseph Mitchell – Queensland Theatre Company Education Program at Bille Brown Studio. (Thursday)

Divas-one night only: Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Concert Hall, QPAC (Saturday)


Single Admissions by Tammy Weller Dir Daniel Evans at Sue Benner Theatre, !MetroArts

Blackbird by David Harrower Dir Mark Conaghan for La Boite Indie at Roundhouse Theatre

Let the Sunshine by David Williamson Dir Michael Gow at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC


Matilda Awards: JWCoCA Fortitude Valley. Monday 6pm

Shakespeare’s Birthday on Friday.  You knew that!  Greenroom is doing a special post for the birthday Bard … watch out for it.

Greenroom Reviews:

Blackbird: 23rd Productions

Review -Blackbird: 23rd Productions

[pullquote]Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise. (Paul McCartney: The White Album)[/pullquote]

Two people in a room locked in a battle of wills; menace under a veneer of (relative) politeness; conversation peppered with mundanities; phrases cut off; topics shift; and the air hums with tension.  They could leave, but don’t.  Harold Pinter?  No, it’s David Harrower and Blackbird, the latest from the feisty 23rd Productions in La Boite’s second offering for their 2010 Indie series.

The ghost of Pinter lurks around the edges of this Brit psycho-drama and 2007 Olivier Awards Best Play winner from Scotsman, Harrower.  It’s easy to see why.  There’s something terrible haunting the protagonists, Una and Ray; something from their past has taken over their lives.  Obsession, betrayal, blame, grieving, a fling at healing – all drive the play’s action as each rakes over events from years long gone.  Every beat is masterfully crafted into a duet that probes society’s notions of morality set in counterpoint with individual desire.  Continue reading Review -Blackbird: 23rd Productions

Blackbird: 23rd Productions for La Boite Indie at the Roundhouse Theatre

Check company website for show times and further details

Writer | David Harrower
Director | Mark Conaghan
Designer | Kade Sproule
Lighting Design | Jason Glenwright
With | Kathryn Fray and Daniel Murphy


Review: Blackbird: 23rd Productions – Greenroom (Kate Foy)
Review: Blackbird
– Absolute Theatre (Eric Scott) Follow the prompts to 2010 Reviews
Review: Blackbird
– (Katherine Lyall-Watson)
The Awful Truth – The Blurb (Eric Scott)
Blackbird @ The Roundhouse – MC Reviews (Sasha Mackay)
Blackbird – La Boite Indie: (Curtain Up)