For me, theatre is all about presenting to the audience something weird, wonderful and immersive. Armed with its new production, The Ugly Sisters, produced at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, theatre company RashDash ticks all the right boxes with regards to presenting something raucous, boisterous and sinisterly spectacular.
The story is essentially a modern-day retelling of the story of Cinderella, from the perspective of her two evil and, dare I say it, ugly sisters Emerald (Abbi Greenland) and Pearl (Helen Goalen). These two make up the theatre company that is RashDash, along with psychedelic multi-genre band Not Now Bernard, hailing from Brighton. The story cleverly interweaves segments of the traditional fairy tale with new modern perspectives, such as how the sisters are represented in the cruel and unforgiving media, which eventually reduces them to nothing.
RashDash doesn’t mess around. The physicality as the grotesque sisters helps to create a particularly grotesque story, shown right from the show’s opening moments. They work incredibly seamlessly not only together with all of their movements and high energy physical sequences coming across as absolutely fluid, but they also work seamlessly with the musicians on stage with them, who each portray a significant character at some point during the show. At points, the ugly sisters stole some of their instruments and gleefully abused them to help create terrifying and captivating sonic sequences to tell their story. A particularly moving moment I found in the performance was when Emerald had some fun with a looping pedal with which she created some sharp and enchanting vocals, which ultimately conveyed her character and the anger and hate building up inside her. In my opinion, this was a genius idea.
Everyone on the stage seemed to pulse with the lifeblood of the ugly sisters. As mentioned, their physicality was incredible, presenting to the audience a heightened and exaggerated tale about what happens when obsession and social paranoia take over. The characters were brave and memorable, cemented by Emerald snarling at the audience, “We’re going to pick on you now”, which certainly caused a tremor of fear and laughter which rippled through the audience like a nervous tide.
Having said that, the two worked incredibly well together. The chemistry between the two sibling characters bubbled and frothed throughout the whole performance, with them holding onto each other right to the end of the performance, making their broken whispers echo through the auditorium all the more hauntingly. Their storytelling skills were also superb; there aren’t many actors I know that can successfully portray a character through both a tiara and a shoe. Both of them are characters you might find boisterous and grotesque at the start, but you warm to them throughout the duration of the show. They’ll have you laughing, crying and shivering with fear. They could tell you the most boring story imaginable and you’d still enjoy it. There were times when I was shocked and my ears were ringing from the chaotic songs, but that probably proves that the company were hitting all the right notes with regards to their performance.
The Ugly Sisters is nothing short of spectacular and quirky, and it certainly represents the ethos of its theatre company. As the two have said previously, they’re rash as in reckless, and dash as in fast – they’re RashDash, and they’re certainly not to be missed.
The Ugly Sisters is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 14 September. For more information and tickets, see the West Yorkshire Playhouse website.