By Bukamuso Sebata
Dianne Simpson walks onto stage in a bad mood with make-up to match. It’s put on, of course. She’s Clarice, one of the OG Ugly Step Sisters.
In The Sister’s Ugly, writer and actor, Simpson treats her audience to a thought-provoking and entertaining exploration of the life of Clarice – outside of the classic Cinderella tale.
This dramatic comedy musical takes us on a journey through her past, as she grapples with her fate as the villain in Cinderella’s story. The play, infused with music from Queen, One Republic, and Elton John, brings a fresh perspective to an age-old story.
The genius of this production lies in its reimagining of Cinderella from Clairice’s point of view. Clarice, beautifully portrayed by Simpson, transcends the two-dimensional mean girl often found in the original tale. Through Simpson’s captivating performance, the audience witnesses the complexity of a woman who has endured a lifetime of rejection, bullying, and heartbreak. Unlike the traditional Cinderella narrative, Clarice is not simply a malicious figure. She is a victim of circumstance, trapped in a cruel plot that denied her the opportunity to confront her pain and seek redemption.
The play delves into her past, unravelling her childhood, her relationships with her sister, parents, and a tragic loss. Through her eyes, the audience discovers that the abuse she and her sister supposedly inflicted upon Cinderella is not how she remembers it. Cinderella was a willing maid, someone who possessed abilities, like cooking and cleaning, that Clarice and Isabel will never attain. This spin on the original tale challenges the notion of heroes and villains, forcing the audience to question the black-and-white portrayal of characters in traditional fairy tales.
The actor skilfully brings her character to life, masterfully balancing humour and pathos. We laugh and sympathise with Clarice in equal measure, a testament to the actor’s nuanced performance. The Sister’s Ugly sheds light on the societal norms and expectations that marginalise characters like Clarice. It challenges the audience to reevaluate their preconceived notions and consider the untold stories behind seemingly one-dimensional characters. It certainly will make you question Cinderella’s plot, or any seemingly neat story about good vs evil.