First performed last year at the Hidden Doors Festival, Ludens Ensemble’s Ubu Roi is an unabashedly chaotic romp.
Egged on by his wife Ma Ubu, Pa Ubu murders good king Venceslas and becomes a grotesque tyrant. After a series of massacres performed with the help of the ‘Nob machine’, Ubu is dethroned by Prince Billykins, the legitimate heir to the crown. Created in 1896 by Alfred Jarry, this avant-garde parody of Macbeth resulted in a genuine scandal on its first performance. Ludens Ensemble’s interpretation is an hour-long farce that one of the performers rightly labels as an ‘austerity panto’.
This Ubu is as rakish as Jarry’s was fat. He yields a broom as a sword, and he and his court are dressed up like Marcel Marceau look-alikes, all in black joggers, striped tee shirts and white-painted faces. With the help of the ‘Ub-Ipad’, shadow theatre and body puppets, the cast stages Ubu’s bloody ascent to the throne. There are some great visual inventions and suitably bonkers hoover-fighting scenes. We laugh as we see Ubu ripping out a tongue behind a screen, and the image of Ma Ubu multiplied with the help of IMovie has a truly surreal and sinister feel to it. The actors are clearly having a great time, and put a lot of energy into proving it to us. However they frequently end up being outnumbered and even outperformed by their inanimate counterparts, as their lines get drowned in onstage racket. You can’t even hear a single of Pa Ubu’s famous ‘MERDRE.’ Despite some inventive multimedia stunts, the end result rings slightly hollow at times, and is better enjoyed as ‘an experience’ than as a play.
- Adapted from Alfred Jarry
- Director: Philippos Philippou
- Co-Produced by Ludens Ensemble and Paphos, 2017 Capital of Culture
- Cast includes: Adam Tompa, Dylan Read, Jenny Lynn, Persefoni Gerangelou
- Summerhall, Edinburgh
- Until 27 August 2017
- Review by Marine Furet
- 8 August 2017