Review: Ugly Duck at The New Vic, Newcastle under Lyme

This review was originally written for the Reviews Hub

Writer and Director: Deborah McAndrew

A local play for local people, that sums up Deborah McAndrew’s new production in 6 words. Set in an old Potteries in Burslem, Stoke on Trent. Ugly Duck invites the audience to look into the life of Kat – a young amateur artist, who decides she wants to paint a new canvas portrait of a nude working man – however, she actually decides to paint unemployed middle-aged Dennis.

Although, perhaps not for everybody. The comedy in the piece is remarkably local and goes down well with the audience. From mentions to finding a job in the local ‘Saturday Sentinel’ to the rivalry between Stoke City and Port Vale you can certainly tell that McAndrew is very content in knowing not only her audience but also the period and setting of her script. The comedy within this piece is focused more on the cleverly scripted, naturalistic and witty one-liners, rather than over the top physical comedy. That being said Dennis played by Philip Wright brings some excellent physical comedic moments to this performance which adds to the friendly and ‘everyman’ nature of his well-rounded character.

The comedic bickering between Drinna and Mark played by Susan Twist and James Masters respectively is a fine example of how McAndrew captures the naturalism of human connection and communication. This is also true when you see Kat played by Rachel Austin start to come to terms with understanding who she is and what she could be. A phase which I’m sure a lot of young people go through.

The set designed by Sue Condie frames the piece very well. Old pottery paraphernalia transforms this theatre into a well-used abandoned pottery’s workshop. Occasional delays during scene changes can take its toll on the pace, however a small matter overall. Jo Dawson’s lighting design creates an excellent atmosphere for the production.

Although Ugly Duck is remarkably local in nature, everyone can still enjoy it – although perhaps someone with little knowledge about the local area may not understand or follow some of the more local comments and jokes. Ugly Duck asks you to look beneath the surface and unearth the secrets underneath with the arching message that we are all beautiful in our own way but sometimes we don’t see it ourselves; do what’s best for you and don’t judge a book by its cover.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Runs until 11 September 2014 | Photo Andrew Billington


The original review can be found here

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