Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ugly Mugs, Griffin

An "Ugly Mugs" pamphlet is a publication made for and by street-working prostitutes in Melbourne - describing and identifying possibly dangerous customers to help other girls avoid them. Peta Brady's play uses this as a way into exploring issues regarding female sexuality and male violence and the ways they seem inextricably linked.

The show is structured around two storylines - in a morgue, the examiner (Steve LeMarquand) is examining the dead body of a prostitute (Brady) and finds her copy of the Ugly Mugs pamphlet - and while reading, he converses with her and she talks back about her life; meanwhile a young boy (Harry Boland) sits in police custody and remembers the last time he saw a young girl (Sara West).

The first of these storylines plays much stronger than the second (though it does have a somewhat too tidy wrapup) - unfortunately, it also seems to get way less stage time. LeMarquand and Brady have an easy interaction about them that plays well, and it's good, specific, tight writing. West and Boland, meanwhile, are in a far more generic storyline - West, in particular, is very strong (and both LeMarquand and Brady play second roles in this storyline as well) but the relationship between the two feels only very loosely thematic and it's really only at one point (when West sits on the trolley that has previously had the prostitutes corpse on it), that any kind of link is clearly drawn.

I don't want to dismiss this as a misfire - there's a lot of strengths here - but it isn't a perfectly aimed shot either. Maybe it's that the publicity for the show sold itself a lot on the prostitution angle and it ends up being subdued next to a midly aimless adolescent drama instead, but I did feel this didn't quite realise the potential it had.

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