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Ugga

    by Chris Lambert


     

Synopsis

‘Ugga!’ is a play written for adults but is suitable for children over the age of nine. It is a play about the obsession with looks, cosmetic surgery, diets and obesity. It challenges the audience to recognise the way in which the media influences our feelings about our own body image and can cause insecurity, bullying and eating disorders.

This play was written as a collaboration between a professional theatre company and a youth theatre. Two professional actors played the main roles whilst five children (aged between 11 and 13) played the students. The work can be produced in this way but it can also work well with a much larger cast, with lots of children creating the Chorus of the Children and each character being played by a different actor, perhaps as a team-up between an adult amateur dramatics company and a local youth theatre or as a full school production.

Mr Jones, a new teacher, arrives at St David’s school with dreams of a great career in front of him, but in his first lesson he meets his students one of whom is a boy they call Ugga, who wears a paper bag on his head and refuses to take it off. In the staff room, Mr Jones asks the drama teacher, Mr Farthing, about Ugga and it is revealed that the boy has been wearing the bag for three months and that despite many attempts, nobody can take it off.

Mr Jones resolves to solve the problem and the play skips back three months to reveal some of the possible reasons for Ugga's bizarre behaviour. These include harsh words from the headteacher, overhearing a conversation between two girls, a school photographer and an argument about looks between his parents.

Moving forward now in time, at three weeks into Mr Jones’ appointment, Ugga has breakfast with his parents and they argue about the causes of this problem, whilst back at the school, the two school janitors discuss their body weight and rail against the media’s support of body fascism. They think that Ugga is right to do what he has done.

Mr Jones deals with a bully who is picking on Ugga by 'bullying' him right back. Dr Shandy informs Mr Jones that Ugga will need to be expelled if his problem continues, and Mr Jones promises to solve the problem.

At parents evening Mrs Porter is told about the potential expulsion and Mr Jones suddenly realizes why Billy is wearing the bag. He works out a way of getting the bag removed at tomorrow’s assembly.

At that assembly, Mr Jones encourages the cast and the audience (who play the part of the students in assembly) to all put bags on their heads before Ugga arrives. When Ugga enters he takes the bag off because he just wanted to be different, and now, because everyone in the whole school hall is wearing a paper bag, he isn’t different any more. Mr Jones is angered that Ugga is so shallow and that this play has to exist because of this mundane obsession and rails at the audience for their stupidity. He then exits, laughing, with a bag on his head.


Characters

Principals (4m, 1f)
  Mr Jones - an idealistic teacher, mid twenties, wants to make a career for himself in this field and thinks he has the golden touch, somewhat arrogant and can be impatient
  Dr Shandy - an old-fashioned headmaster, a couple of years off retirement, part of the furniture, bluff and slightly odd, but totally committed to the success of the school
  Ugga (Billy Porter) - wears a paper bag on his head, speaks only at the end where he reveals his true nature
  Mr Farthing - a drama teacher, frighteningly stereotypical, very effeminate and affected, often resorts to histrionics in everyday conversations, has bowel problem
  Mother (Mrs Porter) - opinionated and sexually frustrated, very protective of Billy, bored with her husband
  Father (Mr Porter) - opinionated middle-aged man, loud-spoken, a little aggressive, but desperate to solve this problem.
 
Support (3m, 2f, 1m/f)
  Photographer - a typical school photographer with a tried and tested series of tricks that are used to get the children to smile (m/f)
  Peter - paranoid caretaker, obsessed with his own looks, hyper-sensitive
  John - overweight caretaker, happy with himself, dreams of revolution
  Bully (Stephen Brown) - typical school bully, has a slightly vulnerable side
  Sonia - sweet on the surface, can be mean at times
  Sally - mean on the surface, mean all the time
  Children - a chorus of children who form a backdrop to the action through the use of tableau and their choral narration
 

  Note : Doubling can reduce the total cast size (exc the chorus) down to 3m, 3f as follows ...

  • Mr Jones/Photographer/Father/Peter
  • Dr Shandy/Mr Farthing/John/Bully
  ... and in the original production this was reduced to 2m adults (one played Mother) and a group of 1m, 2f teenagers (plus 2f chorus)

     

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