JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE UGLIES at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 11.12.13.
4 stars ****
THINGS BEGIN WITH A VAGUE air of potty-mouthed desperation, at this year’s satirical Play, Pie And Pint panto-for-adults, written by David Anderson and David MacLennan. First, we’re subjected to the mind-boggling sight of Anderson and George Drennan, as ugly sisters Malicia and Malevola, getting into their drag costumes and slapping on the lipstick; “where’s ma tits?” growls Anderson. Then the story takes a frighteningly raunchy turn, as the lovely and brilliantly satirical Frances Thorburn, playing both Buttons and Cinderella with the aid of a couple of cardboard cut-outs, informs us in grim detail of Buttons’s crotch problems, caused by his overwhelming lust for Cinders.
Things begin to look up, though, when the unmarried Ginger Prince (loosely based on a well-known member of the Royal Family) issues his invitations to the ball, triggering a tremendous pre-ball duel of jokery between the two uglies – perhaps the best anywhere in this year’s Scottish pantosphere – followed by a hilarious ball scene, presided over by a grinning group photographs of the Royals, where Cinders sings a stunningly beautiful song, and is otherwise only interested in sinking vodkas from the free bar, while the Uglies pull a rare fast one by replacing Cinderella’s lost slipper with one of Malevola’s boat-like pumps.
It all ends happily, though, as the Uglies’ ruse is discovered, and Cinderella tells Juliet Cadzow’s orange-haired Prince to get lost, since she rejects the patriarchal and sexist nature of the story. It’s a simple idea, to take the Cinderella story by the scruff of the neck, and remind us that royalty – far from being every girl’s dream – is a strongly contested idea in our time; but it works brilliantly, and by the end, with the audience belting out its resolve to modernise the pantomime to the tune of We Shall Not Be Moved, we find ourselves wiping away tears of naughty lunchtime laughter, as grown-up and republican as you like.