Actor Eden Falk talks about the final Griffin Independent production of 2011, The Ugly One - a play that plumbs the depths of modern society's obsession with beauty
Your character Lette is disastrously ugly. His assistant has usurped his position based on looks and his wife openly states she cannot stand the sight of his face. Has anyone said you were that unattractive?
Not to my face. [Laughs] I guess everyone can relate to the feeling. No one’s perfect.
Do you have any particular feature flaw you really don’t like?
I’ve got quite big lips and a big mouth that I have always been self-conscious of, but I’ve been told that big lips are good, so it’s a matter of opinion.
The surgery scene in The Ugly One is hilarious. Were there a lot of rehearsals for all those precise movements and noises?
The playwright doesn’t really give you any direction on how to do the scene so you can kind of do what you want. We used sound effects and Gig Clarke just has one of those talents where he can manipulate his mouth to do almost anything.
What’s the feedback been like for the play?
I think it is one of those plays where people don’t know whether to laugh or not at certain points because it can be quite dark. So when that scene happens early on, people sit back and realise they can enjoy the play without wondering how they’re meant to feel about it.
Are you a fan of gore yourself?
[Laughs] Well I like things that are visceral. The great thing about that scene is that it leaves it up to the audience’s imagination, I think if you were to actually have blood and make-up and actually alter my face it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.
What are some features that make the perfect face for you – or does it even matter?
Is there a perfect ‘anything’? In the Germanic world this play originates from, it is about symmetry. For anything to be aesthetically pleasing, it has to be aligned. That is the ideal in this play. But for me personally, it doesn’t really matter.
The mother and son situation with your character goes well beyond Freudian. What would you say to prepare audiences for this?
To prepare audiences… Well they are just really obsessed with his face. I don’t think the playwright is trying to be Freudian or psycho-sexual. I think the world of this play is verging on the absurd. At times it can be dark and at other times it is a complete farce.
What are some similarities you have with Lette?
I can become quite obsessed with ideas. I can be fairly stubborn – you would probably have to talk to my girlfriend about that. Also, as an actor, where your job is largely driven by your looks, it wasn’t one of the harder things to act when he was told he was ugly.
You just finished working on The Great Gatsby. Were there any similarities between that character and Lette?
Oh no. My character is a wannabe artist, one of those people that think he is a little bit better than he is in the 1920s art scene of New York. He is very foppish. It was actually quite refreshing to do that and come back to the play and do something completely different.
Behind all the laughs there is actually quite a dark message on how society consumes beauty. Do you think it’s an accurate reflection?
Totally. I believe the playwright got the idea because a couple of his friends had a nose job and they looked quite similar after it. I think that’s why people like this play so much. It’s so ripe for picking. We all relate. We all know how magazines, fashion, television and stars culminate to dictate how we live our lives. Conscious or not, it is definitely pertinent.
The Ugly One, SBW Stables Theatre, 23 Nov-17 Dec 2011.