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The Ugly Sisters by Bec Applebee

St Erme Community Centre - 29th November 2015

What does today’s society see as beautiful? Every day we are bombarded with images of catwalk models, their photo-shopped pictures hiding any misdemeanours; the must have beauty products that we cannot live without and the social media snapshots of perfect people leading perfect lives in perfect worlds. We are led to believe that if we just emulate them; shop where they shop; have our hair done by celebrity stylists; stop eating; primp; preen and learn how to give the perfect selfie pout, then we too would have the perfect life to rival theirs.

But is this realistic? Is this beautiful? Or is beauty just an ideal that we never really see, but feel deep inside us? Through this clever Cinderella adaptation, The Ugly Sisters explores these notions and attempts to prove that the latter is what really matters. Co-directed by Bec Appleby and Simon Harvey,with choreography by Helen Tiplady, script by Callum Mitchell and music by Seamus Carey, the show has taken the work of some of the best in their respective fields to ensure its success.

Within five minutes of the show opening we are taken from the solemn characterisation of the country family’s history, through to the introduction of lonely Ella (Jenny Beare),then the moment when Grace (Bec Applebee) and Charity (Mary Woodvine) burst on stage with a rousing rendition of the song ‘Sisters’, it becomes obvious that this is a show performed by a trio of multi-talented and expressive actresses.

The story revolves around the town loving sisters moving to the Country to live with their new stepsister (Ella) when their mother marries her father. The sisters are streetwise, fashion conscious and knowledgeable about every beauty regime on the market. They know what they should and should not do in order to be beautiful.  Self-obsession and self-consciousness rule their lives, and their disgust at Ella’s total disregard of how she looks or what she wears is evident from the outset. When heartthrob Justin’s three-day ball invitations arrive, they do all they can to prevent Ella from being able to attend.

This is a mobile, family show, ultimately aimed at encouraging children to look beyond the surface of how society views celebrity and fashion. However, the script works well on two layers and there is plenty to keep the adults in the audience entertained. After all, who wouldn’t fail to snigger at a reference to looking like a ‘Hairy Mary?’ 

Lighting, costume and staging worked well, with ingenious solutions to the problems inherent in a production of this kind. A starlit sky simulated by an umbrella laced with fairy lights created just the right amount of ambience for an intimate moment, whilst the tooth whitening apparatus, delivered with excellent comedy timing, left no doubt about the barbarity that some people will endure in their pursuit of perfection.

So, is beauty skin deep or does it go deeper? Does plain Ella, the ‘freckly little tomboy whose best friend is a chicken’ triumph over the insecure and artificially obsessed sisters? For this seasoned theatre goer, the ending is sickly sweet and predictable, but it does get its message across well in a humorous and enjoyable way for the whole family. Using a healthy dose of comedy, these three skilful actresses and their multi-talented artistic team, succeed in bringing a little bit of realism into our harsh world of make-believe.

 

Photography by Steve Tanner.

Bec Applebee's Ugly Sisters is touring through December & January - for dates click HERE

Anita Hunt

Anita is a keen writer and published poet, loving all forms of the written word. She escapes from her madcap family of three teenage sons, two dogs and an elderly cat to immerse herself in the worlds that others kindly create purely for her pleasure. Currently writing her first novel she hopes that it can only emulate the amazing stories and performances she has seen on stage – and that it is better than the bad ones…

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Taste by cscape dance company

St Ives Guildhall: 24 October 2015

Dance performances are known for their evocative nature but cscape dance company’s latest production, Taste, is a perfectly choreographed, playful and downright hilarious evening of entertainment. The production almost acts as a precursor for some quirky yet significant debate, provoking contemplation among the audience regarding why they have developed their certain taste and where they fit on the social ladder.

Inspired by a combination of Grayson Perry’s tapestries, which depict the differences between the social classes, and the recent news that there are now apparently seven social class groupings, Taste takes what is quite a sensitive subject and soaks it in British humour.

From the beginning the audience are encouraged to disclose their personal taste with a show of hands to certain questions, such as whether it’s ‘sofa’ or ‘settee’ and what tea they drink. The decision to involve the audience in the performance works well, particularly as there’s a friendly feeling of slight unspoken judgement regarding whether audience members put milk in first or last when making a good old British cup of tea.


Taste
is a tweed-clad triumph which perfectly demonstrates the human nature of being unintentionally judgemental through the use of contemporary dance. It prompts the audience to consider their taste and the use of occasional spoken word throughout the production complements the choreography by Sally Knight and Neil Paris.

The cast consisted of just three dancers and yet the stage never felt empty or like anything was missing. Each dancer was brilliantly talented with great acting skills, making this form of visual art thoroughly enjoyable.

The quality of dance was impeccable throughout, with a clear explanation of the story for each character demonstrated beautifully through movement. During one scene a dancer adopted the personality of numerous characters ranging from working class to upper class and each social class being demonstrated was instantly recognisable through the captivatingly kooky choreography.

The set for this production is simple and practical and remained the same throughout the many scene changes, which ironically didn’t involve any scenery being changed. The costumes and music have clearly both been carefully considered to complement the scenes and characters being portrayed, but the focus, thankfully is on the dancers and their ability to tell the story beautifully together.

A scene involving one dancer, a table and a few small props perfectly demonstrates the typical societal desire and constant pursuit involved in ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and it’s fair to say that the majority of the audience members could associate with this in some way. A pivotal moment in the performance is when the rhetorical question is asked, ‘Do you control money, or does money control you?’

Taste is a comical and quirky production that manages to make you consider why you behave the way you do and where you fit in society whilst somehow making you laugh wholeheartedly. It’s a first-class dance performance, if you’ll pardon the social groupings reference!

Photograph by Steve Tanner, courtesy of cscape dance company

Natalie Roberts

Having always loved writing, Natalie enrolled on a journalism degree at Falmouth University three years ago and is excited to pursue her career in journalism. Natalie loves spending time with her son and also enjoys singing, dancing, keeping fit and going to the theatre.

 

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