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Ubu Roi
We went to the theatre this evening to see Ubu Roi at the Warwick Arts Centre. R came home to see it with us, but my ticket was even cheaper than hers, as I get a discount for being a Warwick student. How cool is that?


The play was in French - it's a French play, after all - and there were surtitles above the set. The cast were extremely clear-spoken, however, so it was not at all hard to follow.

The production company is Cheek by Jowl, a British company, but working with French actors attached to the Bouffes du Nord Theatre - this is a pretty big deal, as it's where Peter Brook has been based for the last three decades and more. The play was written, astonishingly, in the same decade as The Importance of Being Earnest, though it couldn't be more different. Jarry, the playwright, envisaged puppets, or actors moving like puppets, and used a style full of near-obscenities ("merdre" rather than "merde", for example) and huge, larger-than life characters - almost like pantomime or Commedia del'Arte. The story is of a respected general who murders his king and steals his throne (sounds familiar?) egged on by his wife - but it all goes wrong. It's a satire on power and corruption, something this performance emphasised by framing the action of the original play in a genteel Parisian dinner party - the son of the family using a videocam to film the room and its inhabitants - with a direct feed to a projector, so that it was all projected onto the rear wall of the set. He went backstage and we saw activity in other rooms of the house - some very nifty editing there.

Lighting changes signified the shift from the naturalistic dinner party to the bizarre world of Ubu, along with dramatic music (lots of 19th century opera music and other orchestral big numbers), with spectacular use of a gobo to create whirling snow at times. The set was steadily trashed, with food flung all over the place, a sofa turned into a cave, a cushion "ripped" to reveal bright red viscera, a lampshade used as a crown and a range of kitchen implements used as weapons. The acting style and movement switched as abruptly as the lighting did, so that there was a real sense of a vicious inner personality being revealed. It made the central message of the play into something dealing with the corruption and murderous instincts buried deep within us all, and the hypocrisy and shallowness of "civilised" life. The use of an introductory soundtrack culled from today's France Inter radio - all about Hollande and Mali - really emphasised that, and the applicability of the play to the twenty-first century.

The audience was sadly rather small. This was an intellectually and emotionally interesting play that deserved a full house.



I felt slightly smug that I was able to see the play for so little. I really must start using this perk a bit more.

ETA: Interesting review with further details here.

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velvetwhip From: velvetwhip Date: February 2nd, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
That sounds like such an exciting production.


Gabrielle
gillo From: gillo Date: February 2nd, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
It really was - lots of humour and grossness and astonishingly effective touches. Like killing the king by putting the lampshade on his head, then lowering a hand-blender down, "into" the brains. Followed by pink strings of "brain" being plucked out and flung to the ground. Amazingly effective.
brunettepet From: brunettepet Date: February 2nd, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sounds like a fantastic evening of theater!
gillo From: gillo Date: February 2nd, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
It was well worth the effort - I'd have been delighted to see it even at full price, let alone the mere fiver it cost for me!
zanthinegirl From: zanthinegirl Date: February 3rd, 2013 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
That sounds really interesting. I'm always amazed (non-theater person here) at how much you can do with the staging and lights.

I also get a discount at things like that as I work for a university. I don't use it as often as I ought; good reminder!
gillo From: gillo Date: February 3rd, 2013 01:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty passionate about theatre, and this was a very good example of its kind - even R, final year drama student, was impressed. There is nothing to beat the impact of live theatre, IMO.
paratti From: paratti Date: February 3rd, 2013 01:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Pines for dear old Arts Centre.
gillo From: gillo Date: February 3rd, 2013 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)
They've extended the Butterworth Hall recently, but the core is much the same. I've always appreciated having access to it, but student prices are a real bonus.
yvonnet From: yvonnet Date: February 3rd, 2013 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I've just been to Durham for a week, and saw the students do Fame at the Gala.And it cost £13! But I'm used to London prices, so, bargain! It was DULOG so the singing was good, the dancing not so much, but y'know, as well as can be expected..But, it being Durham, they didn't have a lovely black boy who can street dance to play the Leroy character. Eileen asked me if I'd been in student things at uni - they weren't nearly as grand as at the Gala,( do you remember Pizz? all I got to wear was my own black leotard, not even lycra in those days- and we often had to sew our own costumes...but I did get a cool velvet can can dress for the Merry Widow ;)
gillo From: gillo Date: February 3rd, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have the students stopped using the Assembly Rooms now? Pity if they have. You'd have thought Durham could have managed one decent black performer. :-(

The Gala sounds way upmarket from anything we did.
oxfordia From: oxfordia Date: February 3rd, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love Ubu Roi. Vrout!
gillo From: gillo Date: February 3rd, 2013 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
It was great fun and worked very well in the setting. Directed by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, but the actors were all properly French, and the dinner-party bits looked as if they'd devised them as a group. The first ten minutes or so had a soundtrack of France Inter, about Hollande in Mali, and the initial transitions made it seem as if the actors were fighting with themselves to get the rude words out. It worked extremely well. R loved it too.
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