Friday, 7 February 2020


I have been to see 'Kneehigh's Ubu', which is, as it implies on the tin, Kneehigh theatre company's version of Jarry's 'Ubu Roi'. The reason they have revived this rather notorious piece at this particular time is perhaps most easily illustrated by quoting the Wikipedia entry for the original play. The eponymous Ubu, who has taken over the country in a coup spurred on by his ambitious wife, is described as "fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, jejune, voracious, greedy, cruel, cowardly and evil". Does that sound like anyone we know?

Katy Owen as Ubu and Mike Shepherd as Mrs Ubu

It was simply brilliant. Described as a 'sing-along satire' it involved maximum audience participation with members invited not just to sing, but even to get up on stage and fight at one point. There was also a keenly fought game of dunk-a-trunk, which looked like good fun; I have made a mental note of the rules and equipment required. Kneehigh's style is much to my taste (see this previous posting on their Tristan & Yseult; and of course the Wise Children company reviewed  glowingly here on a couple of occasions over the last couple of years spawned out of them) and it was equally appreciated by the mainly mid-teen schoolkids amongst who made up most of the audience. Now when I was at school all we ever went to see was Shakespeare.

It is just possible that Alfred Jarry's school focused on the Bard as well because, as you have no doubt already worked out for yourself, the basic structure comes directly from Macbeth, and there are bits of other Shakespeare plays thrown in for luck. Someone even exits pursued by a bear at one point.

The events surrounding the first (and only) performance of the original play are well worth reading about. Amongst those there were W.B. Yeats (whose opinion may have been coloured by the fact that he didn't speak French) and Stéphane Mallarmé, another poet previously quoted in this blog.  Incidentally, Jarry invented the concept of pataphysics; there's a limit to how many times I can post a video of the same song, so let me send you back to here. Whilst this latest production has run for a lot longer, by the time you read this you will have missed the chance to see it. If it's ever revived then don't miss it next time.

Good riddance

This post has been brought to you by Tarquin's Cornish Gin - the gin for the skin you're in. 

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