Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Ugly Sisters

RashDash present The Ugly Sisters at St Stephens, the venue being run by Northern Stage at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Giving an alternative perspective on the story of Cinderella, the two ‘ugly sisters’ Emerald and Pearl are not happy with the way the media has spun their story by the treacherous Arabella (otherwise known as Cinderella). Now they want to set things right, and to do that they have to tell their side of the story. We’re propelled back to their childhood and teenage years as they grow up living in the shadow of the precocious Arabella. Nothing they can do can set their mother, Ruby, away from the halo that adorns Arabella’s head. Fast forward and a reality-TV show, You Shall Go To The Ball, is looking for princesses to marry the Prince Charming. The sisters enter and all make it through to the final, but have the producers been treating this as a fair competition – do the audience actually like Emerald and Pearl, or is it a joke at their expense?

The Ugly Sisters is a compelling and riotous evening of performance, with RashDash joined by the dashing Not Now Bernard band, mixing crashing drums and harmonic singing to create a show not to be missed. It’s rare that you see a successful blend of music delivered from a band alongside a theatrical narrative; the two dissolve and clash against each other to, at times, feel more like a rock concert than a performance piece. In many ways this is why The Ugly Sisters works so well – the music propels the narrative, enforcing the two sister’s story of anger and torment. That, and the fact that both performers of RashDash are bloody talented with exceptional vocals.

By the end of The Ugly Sisters you’ll be hanging off the edge of your seat and wanting to burst into applause. So engrossing is RashDash’s storytelling that I forgot I was even at the Edinburgh Fringe. The songs hit the audience with the force of a tidal wave, leaving us awash with the emotive qualities of the narrative. There’s some exceptional moments that leave goosebumps tingling down your body, that makes me wonder: have I ever seen anything like this before? The truth I’m sure is I have, but not by RashDash, and not right now.

The blend of music, song and text, with playful physical comedy, creates a crescendo of crashing and pulsing theatre. With foot pedals used for looping to create the atmospheric and emotive side of the story, and direct address to the keep the audience on edge, The Ugly Sisters is bold and powerful. We all know the story of Cinderella, but never has it been given such a kick up the ass before. Blink and you’ll miss this beauty, but snap up a ticket and rest assured that the Edinburgh Fringe does have some good theatre waiting to be discovered.

**** – 4/5 Stars

The Ugly Sisters is playing at St Stephens until 25 August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe Festival website.