Ubu Roi

Bang up-to-the-minute re-envisioning of Jarry's classic

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ubu roi
Published 12 Aug 2017

Edinburgh-based Ludens Ensemble have created a sparklingly current adaptation of Alfred Jarry's absurdist classic, keeping favourite phrases from Kenneth McLeish's original Glaswegian translation and supplementing them with contemporary references in a rich textual language. That richness stretches beyond the script—and the improvisations around it—to the multiple performance technologies employed onstage.

Dylan Read is magnificent as Pa Ubu, utterly barmy but somehow managing to make it into a position of power, spurred by the cycles of discontent that feel so pertinent to today's populist poiltics. The physicality is engaging and precise among all four performers, though it's a shame that Jenny Lynn's vocal energy isn't pitched at the same fanatical level as her fellows.

Every theatrical trick in the book is thrown at the production (directed by Philippos Philippou with dramaturg Vangelis Makriyannakis), but in such carefully considered ways that the story still leads the charge, with puppetry, shadow play, projection trickery and live drawing serving as a well chosen supporting cast. The underlying plot is a simple fable, distilled from the ambitious regicide of Macbeth, but leaps into razor sharp critique of cowardice, idiocy and power through Ludens' treatment of McLeish's script.

Oblongs of white over the performers' eyes create a strong visual impression, and Moyra Campbell's visual artistry adds a fascinating quality to the projection work. There are jenga block sausages and a wind-up sidekick. This brilliantly bonkers production is hard to categorise, but Pa Ubu's almost-aside that we should "invest in the concept" is preaching to the already converted.