The Ugly Sisters

Reviewer's Rating

It is nearly a month since Christmas and the panto season has come to an end, but fear not boys and girls – the alternative version of Cinderella is taking place at the Soho Theatre.

RashDash are five players who use music, dance and words to subvert and deconstruct the story of The Ugly Sisters told from the perspective of the two demonised siblings. Pearl and Emerald, who are most definitely not ugly, take us through their version of this unfairylike tale. As children they are brought up by Ruby, a mother with whom they are on first name terms. Life is somewhat dysfunctional as their mum spends a lot of time out at work, leaving them to play with burnt out cars, but not with needles or used condoms. Everything changes when Ruby marries Clint and the three of them move in with him and his daughter Arabella, who soon becomes Ruby’s favourite. The closeness of the relationship between the mother and her natural children, who had earlier sung a song celebrating the fact that ‘you keep me together’ is fragmented.

Helen Goalen as Pearl and Abbi Greenland as Emerald initially attempt to put straight the lies of the original story in a song that is accompanied by musicians Benny Brooke, Jonas Aaron and Tom Penn. Unfortunately their angry vocals are somewhat drowned out by the percussion. In the manner of true pantomime they involve members of the audience, asking them what they have heard of the Ugly Sisters, on whom they heap abuse, responding to them as ‘wankers’, ‘tossers’ and worse before their story unfolds.

Goalen and Greenland are an extremely accomplished and talented duo, who relate their tale in chapters, like a true fairy story. They take us through the painful adolescent and teenage years, telling and showing with narration and energetic dance sequences. The choreography is both acrobatic and physical, demonstrating the bond between the twin sisters. They occasionally need to stop and reassure each other as the forthcoming revelations (involving a reality TV show and a competition to marry the prince) are too painful to relive.

The parts of the prince, Ruby and Arabella are spoken by the musicians (each of whom plays several instruments) giving further depth to the story. The girls remain on stage throughout the performance, even changing their clothes and drawing on boxes of props to demonstrate how their lives have changed (horse riding, swimming and ballet dancing) after acquiring a new family. By the end of the production, through a critique of reality television and plastic surgery, we finally understand how the siblings came to be The Ugly Sisters. You will leave the theatre feeling sympathy for the twins and the world that created them. I can promise you that not one single cartoon creature is harmed during the evening, nor are any pumpkins or magic involved.