Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

11/07/2015 - 08/08/2015

Production Details

‘What if money could buy the perfect face?’ 

11 July – 08 August 

Lette thinks he is normal, but when he discovers that he is in fact unbelievably ugly, he turns to a plastic surgeon for help. Suddenly he becomes the most beautiful man in the world. Fame and riches follow; women want to sleep with him and men want to look like him. And with surgery they can look like him. Exactly like him. Quickly Lette learns that there is such a thing as too beautiful. 

The Ugly One is a scalpel-sharp comedy written by up-and-coming German playwright Marius von Mayenburg that explores beauty, identity and getting ahead in the modern world. It makes us question the ease with which we conform to the socially desirable and gives us a snapshot of the consequences this could entail. 

Under the direction of award-winning director Giles Burton, cast members Christopher Brougham (A View from the Bridge), Lyndee-Jane Rutherford (Dead Tragic), Paul Waggott (A View from the Bridge) and Todd Rippon (Isaac’s Eye) bring to life Mayenburg’s 7 characters with grace and calculated ambiguity in the New Zealand Premiere of The Ugly One

This is a show that will speak just as strongly to those striving for perfection, as it will to those rebelling against the norm. It is a show for those disgusted by the plethora of beauty-enhancement treatments as well as those intrigued by them. What does ‘perfection’ or ‘beauty’ mean to you? What ever your stance, this show will have you in hysterics trying to answer that question.

Savage social satire … A small but perfectly formed play” – The Guardian  

A stripped bare satire on the nature of beauty. If you are interested in theatrical story-telling see this show.” – The Times 

The Ugly One will stay in the brain far longer than many other perfectly formed plays.” – The Times 

Contains mature content – Contact the Box Office for more information

Circa Theatre
Season: 7.30pm Saturday 11 July – Saturday 8 August
(excl Mon), Matinee Sundays 4.30pm 

Opening Night Saturday 11 July, 7.30pm (60 min) 
Preview Shows Thursday 9 July, 7.30pm Friday 10 July, 7.30pm and Sunday 12 July, 4.30pm 

$46 full/$36 senior/$33 friends of Circa/$39 groups 6+/$36 groups 20+/$25 under 25s/$25 previews 

Book through Circa Theatre on 04 801 7992 or 




Theatre ,

A minimalist beauty

Review by John Smythe 13th Jul 2015

As The Beautiful Ones plays their final performance in Circa One, The Ugly One opens in Circa Two.

Adonis, Narcissus, Dorian Gray, Rocky (of the Horror Show, not the boxer), George Clooney … The myths of the impossibly good-looking man and his grotesque converse – the monster made by Victor Frankenstein (the modern Prometheus); before that, the Beauty and the Beast folk tale – have been with us forever.

German playwright Marius von Mayenburg tapped into the vanity vein in 2007 with The Ugly One, translated into English by Maja Zade and now directed for Circa Theatre by Giles Burton.

Lette, an engineer, has designed a breakthrough component and assumes he will present it to a conference until he is told he’s too ugly. His boss, Scheffler, wife, Fanny and colleague, Karlman have always known but this is news to Lette. He turns to surgeon Scheffler with nurse Fanny to remedy the situation and the result surpasses all expectations. Everything changes, not least in his marital relationship with Fanny and dealings with the septuagenarian CEO of a client corporation, Fanny, and her son, Karlman. Then everything changes again.

You see what’s happening here? Austerity is the word that leaps to mind. The Ugly One distils minimalism to a whole new level. There’s nothing new in four actors playing eight characters, of course, or staging the plays with no set or costume changes. But keeping the same names and voices, and sliding into different characters and settings without missing a beat, brings simplicity to a whole new level.

Yet because the actors know who they are, and where and why, at each given moment, we in the audience have no trouble keeping up. In fact giving us that little puzzle to solve every few moments increases our level of engagement.

I’m told the script just runs the dialogue against the four character names. The director (who had seen a production overseas so knew how it worked) and cast had to work out for themselves who they were being and were they were on each line. I guess that increased their level of engagement too.

Of course Christopher Brougham, who plays Lette, is a perfectly fine looking man. So is Paul Waggott (Karlmann). If anything it is Todd Rippon, who plays the superciliously judgemental Schleffer, and Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, who plays the lovingly patronising Fanny, who have the more idiosyncratic physiognomies, and this adds extra bite to the social satire.

What they all have is finely tuned comic sensibilities that keep the play humming along without overstating it. Minimalism is the order-of-the-day here too.

Brougham’s Lette is a symphony of vulnerability rising to a steady crescendo of arrogance. Rutherford’s Fanny is lyrical in painstaking love, bluntly percussive as the nurse and she thrills to the throes of lust.

As Karlmann, Waggott croons his collegial concerns and counterpoints with the anxieties of Fanny’s son-with-mother-issues. Rippon has a melodious air as the boss-man Schleffer which wavers only slightly as he reveals his inexperience as a surgeon.

Set and costume designer Poppy Serano dresses all four actors in grey suits and the largely bare stage with two long beige padded benches on either side. An executive chair and equipment trolley are wheeled in for the procedures. The only flash of colour is a mandarin.

All attention, therefore, is focused on the ‘argument’: the incisive commentary on a ‘looksist’ culture in a supply-and-demand economy. In short, The Ugly One is a little beauty.


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Taut telling and quality acting

Review by Laurie Atkinson 13th Jul 2015

If you are naive enough to believe looks aren’t everything and it’s what’s inside us that counts then you had better see the excellent New Zealand premiere of Marius von Mayenburg’s international hit The Ugly One.

This 65-minute satirical comedy has been given a spare, but enthralling production by Giles Burton whose cast of four well-known local actors, who play eight roles, are in top notch form, clearly relishing the sharpness and cleverness of the script and the range of characters they play. [More]


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