Calgary Fringe – Fugly – Review




August 9 and 10, 2013

Stash Needle Art Lounge


It’s easy when the Fringe Festival blows into town to get caught up with all the excitement of seeing dozens of national and international artists that we wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see. Often we focus our attention on these import performances rather than take in what our local talents are staging at the festival. However doing this at the expense of seeing the The Janes’ bizarre, funny and at times disturbingly delicious, Fugly, means  you will have missed out one of this year’s truly great performances.

The absurd, Lewis Carroll-esque, comedy takes a stab at our notions of beauty, perfection what it means to be in control. Without any backstory or explanation, we are immediately thrust into what can only be called bizarro world at the start of the show when Perdida (a heavily made up young woman who’s looks as though she takes beauty advice from the Cirque du Soleil gang) finds herself lost in a strange place. Not just physically lost it turns out, but she’s also lost her mind. The news of this disappearance is told to her by a nymph-like character named Echo who becomes Perdida’s tour guide to help her reclaim her sanity.

As the play progresses and Perdida meets several odd characters that begin to give us a clue as to exactly what part of her “sanity “ is missing. There’s a beautifully vain gallery owner who reveals that her perfection belies and insecure past and gets Perdida to do the same. A muscle-bound gym rat who, despite her discipline, can’t seem to stay away from the buffet and bonds with Perdida over their shared eating issues. A young girl who turns from playmate into vicious bully. Finally Perdida attempts to connect with a most undesirable waitress, but ends up tuning on her with hurtful callousness.

Played out in a surreal, cartoon-like setting, the performers give not one false note in their characterizations. Helen Night as Perdida is vulnerable one minute and cold and distant the next. Joleen Ceraldi plays the quirky Echo with both wonder and sagacity. Heather Falk as the many characters Perdida encounters steals every scene she’s in with her incredible comic timing and ability to inject darkness into some amazingly funny writing. Her performance in the gym-rat scene alone is worth getting a ticket to this show.

Along the way we get many observations on Perdida’s (our) obsession with beauty and the harm it does. Dialogue such as Perdida lamenting, “Why can’t I control myself! But I guess it’s nice to know that others can’t either”. When Echo suggests that misery loves company, Perdida hisses back, “I don’t want company, I want control.” And the search for her mind continues.

If I have one criticism of the show it is that while we get many of these astute observations of our unhealthy attitudes and behaviour, Fugly never does offer any conclusion or insight into how or if this can change. We are shown our worst nature and then shown the door. Not that I necessarily wanted a neatly tied up positive or forced ending. But if The Jane’s mandate is, as they say, “to promote discussion and change”, then I would have liked a more substantive message than, we suck.

This lack of greater insight aside, Fugly is a wonderfully weird visual and emotional spectacle that beautifully transports us to it’s bizarre reality in order to really see ourselves. It is therefore a show that really must be seen.



For Fringeaholics – Creative theatrical experiences like this from our hometown talent is part of what makes fringing so satisfying. Different than anything else you will see this year, Fugly, is a killer performance that needs to be witnessed. SEE IT

For light Fringers – Not exclusively for a female audience, although probably more personally relatable to the women out there, Fugly is a show for those wanting some harsh reality with their laughs. MAYBE SEE IT 

One comment

  1. Jared · August 9, 2013

    This show is incredible! Great job Janes!

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