In theatres across the country, tales as old as time are played out on stage as the season reaches peak panto. Sarah Kendall gives old classic The Ugly Duckling a modern twist to make the Brothers Grimm proud.
ONCE UPON A TIME there was a farm, and on this farm there was a Mother Duck sitting on her nest of eggs. At last, the eggs began to crack as all the chicks came to life. When the last egg finally cracked, Mother Duck was shocked by how big and ugly the chick was. All the farm animals stared at the hideous creature. Mother Duck’s best friend, Melissa (the really slutty one) took a deep drag on a cigarette and commented slyly,
“This chick – the big ugly one – doesn’t look anything like your other children, does she?”
Mother Duck was suddenly very taken with a hangnail. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she exploded, and proceeded to take a call on her mobile phone, which was switched off.
One night, the Ugly Duckling was woken by the sounds of Father Duck stumbling into the house, drunk. He’d heard some chit chat down at the pub and slurred at Mother Duck, “Hey honey, you know that really ‘ugly’ child we have? She does look a hell of a lot like the swan who fixed the boiler last month.”
Mother Duck shot back he was in no position to talk; she’d noticed he and Melissa were pretty bloody friendly lately, and Father Duck shouted he was just helping Melissa out with chores around the house.
The following morning, Mother Duck told Ugly Duckling to just leave. Homeless and friendless, Ugly Duckling wandered the countryside for a whole year. Eventually she decided to end her life. But then Ugly Duckling caught her reflection in the water.
“Hang on!” she exclaimed. “I’ve turned into a freakin’ gorgeous swan! Hey everyone! Gather around and admire my beautiful head!”
All the animals she met told her how gorgeous she was. She couldn’t resist returning to the farm to see the looks on everyone’s faces. Every single animal on the farm instantly admired the Swan’s beauty.
A Fox approached her. He often raided the chicken coup at night, and also did talent management. He told the Swan he liked her look, and would consider representing her as he ran a modelling agency. The only problem was her beak – it was just a little on the large side. And her breasts – they were a little on the small side. All easily corrected, the Fox assured her.
The Swan, who would do anything to be more beautiful, asked “But how will I pay for the surgery?”
“I’ll pay for it,” said the Fox.
“That is kind,” said the Swan, “but how will I ever pay you back?”
“Oh, we’ll find a way.” The Fox lit a cigar and started laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” asked the Swan
“I thought you’d hung up,” said the Fox.
“We’re not on the phone; I’m standing right in front of you.”
“Ah, yes,” said the Fox. “I was laughing because I just remembered last night’s episode of Two and a Half Men.”
The Swan was confused by this, because there is absolutely nothing funny about Two and a Half Men.
After her breast and beak job, life got good for the Swan. She’d moved out of the farm and was living with the fox. She had more modelling work than she dreamt possible. And she did all the things that super-rich people do: like becoming a Scientologist, and adopting a super cute black kid and calling it something really creative, like Lozengebucket.
One day the Swan was struck down with a searing pain in her chest. She couldn’t breathe. Three days later she woke up at the Vet’s. Alone, and in a lot of pain.
“Has anyone visited me?” she asked the Vet.
“Nope! No one at all,” he grinned. Because he was 25 years old and had no people skills.
“What happened to me? Was it a heart attack?”
“No. Silicone degrades into silica, usually at the surface of the gel implant, then fragments and subdivides into millions of microdroplets capable of migrating throughout the body. Silica in the body is a toxic, carcinogenic substance, damaging the immune system, killing cells, and producing silicosis.”
“Pardon?” said the Swan.
“Your tits have leaked.”
Barely able to breathe, the Swan lifted her surgical gown. Where the globe of silicone had once been, there was now a crevice with a hot crimson slash across the centre.
Upon being released from hospital, the Swan went to the home she shared with the Fox. Another, younger Swan answered the door.
“How can you do this to me?” cried the Swan to the Fox, “You said I was beautiful.”
The Fox laughed.
“You fool! You actually think beauty is special. There’s a never-ending supply of beautiful swans in this world.”
The room was silent except for the new, young Swan doing a line of birdseed off a mirror.
Later that night while all the animals of the farm slept in the massive barn, the Swan chained and padlocked all the doors of the barn. She poured petrol around its perimeter. She lit a match and walked around the edges of the barn, and held the flame to the dry grass at the base of each wall. The fire took immediately. All beauty, all ugliness, all pain, all ageing, all sickness – all were blasted in a fiery instant to nothingness. The Swan threw herself onto the flames, and laughed as all ugliness was destroyed, once and for all.
As she drew her last scalding breath, she reflected on the shallowness of the modelling industry.
Sarah Kendall is an Australian stand-up comic who lives in London. She likes pictures of cats with lasers coming out of their eyes.