Der Hässliche (The Ugly One)

Mr Lette, an engineer and inventor who works on electrical connector plugs, makes a horrible discovery: it would appear that he himself is unspeakably ugly. Why has no one told him this until now? Why does it have to be his boss, of all people, who points it out to him when they talk about a congress at which Lette finally wants to present his most recent invention.
Now a despised colleague will travel there and accept someone else's laurels. When confronted with the issue, Lette's wife also has to admit that his face has always been "catastrophic", but she loves him all the same. The decision that he should undergo surgical correction is quickly taken. Lette's unexpected rebirth as a man of irresistable beauty soon makes him famous. His surgeon markets him profitably as an ideal face, his boss uses his handsome looks as bait for women who happen to be solvent major shareholders. Lette surrounds himself with groupies. But his fame does not last long. Lette's market value falls rapidly when he finds himself confronted with ever more duplicates of himself. The erotic oversupply also overwhelms his wife. Lette's self-division progresses unrelentingly. Marius von Mayenburg's furious new comedy heightens the widespread phenomenon of our estrangement from our bodies into the grotesque, holding up a mirror to the vanity of so many relationships. The double and triple roles stipulated by the author lend a surprising dramatic structure to this social satire.
(henschel SCHAUSPIEL)

Responses to the Play:

"Mayenburg's double-layered play is a brilliant comedy of errors about identity, attractiveness and the relativity of success. With great boldness, he shows how the compulsion people feel to market themselves forces them to submit to the yoke of attractiveness and ultimately leaves behind completely deindividualised hollow shells.
The comedy dances around the cult of beauty and ever further into madness: Am I still myself if I look like someone else? What remains of our inner values if they are not authenticated by others? Is the individuality for which we are all striving not, in reality, a massive obstacle on the way to success? Mayenburg depicts identity as a good produced out of the building blocks of other people's judgements, dependent as they are on the successes we achieve or fail to achieve; the body as a malleable raw material and, simultaneously, a depiction of the self. These days, successfully attaining subjecthood demands absolute identification. But what with?" (Junges Theater Göttingen)

"this piece is being cleverly paired with Rhinoceros, Eugene Ionesco's play where people morph into monstrous pachyderms (currently previewing in the Theatre Downstairs). The Ugly One also echoes Ovid's Pygmalion, Frankenstein, Shakespeare's twin-blurring Twelfth Night and other classic stories - all with a sharp contemporary twist.
The comedy becomes stealthily disturbing, touching on raw, instinctive worries and philosophical questions about our current society's shallow values and its foolish ditching of plain, honest realities in favour of manufactured fantasies."
(The Independent, 23.09.2007, Kate Bassett)

Von Mayenburg's satire is short and sharp, and hits all its targets - our obsession with appearances, definitions of beauty and the culture of celebrity - with unerring precision. Like his British influences, namely Caryl Churchill and Martin Crimp, von Mayenburg tells this humorous, yet astringent, parable with immense theatrical verve - four actors play eight parts and there are no scene swaps or costume changes so the story moves forward at a cracking pace.
(The Stage, 20.09.2007)

Technical Details

Premiere 5 January 2007, Schaubühne Berlin
Director Thomas Ostermeier
Cast 1 female, 3 male
Rights henschel SCHAUSPIEL Theater-Verlag Berlin GmbH
Marienburger Straße 28
10405 Berlin
Tel:+49 30 44318888, Fax:+49 30 44318877
Translations Theatre Library