Kneehigh’s Ubu! A Singalong Satire is likely to be pretty lively, but not so much so as Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi, on which it is based and which caused riots in Paris when it was first staged in 1896.
Carl Grose, Charles Hazlewood and Mike Shepherd have combined a deliberately childish script and a singalong with a contemporary political satire. This amusing study of power and populism is underpinned by mass karaoke – what better?
Katy Owen’s Pa Ubu and Mike Shepherd’s Ma Ubu lead the Kneehigh ensemble, a versatile cast of six who instantly develop a rapport with the audience, alongside band The Sweaty Bureaucrats.
Charles Hazlewood has arranged a clever and inventive selection of songs – from Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ to ‘Close to You’ by The Carpenters, the whole creating a fun and festive atmosphere.
Writer and Co-director Carl Grose tells us more:
‘When Alfred Jarry’s play received its premiere at the Théâtre de l’OEuvre in Paris on December 10th 1896 there was, so the story goes, a full-on riot. Audiences and critics alike were confronted with sights and sounds of such outrageousness, that pandemonium broke out and the production was shut down after only two performances.
Like all great artists, Alfred Jarry was a disrupter, and Ubu was his weapon of mass disruption. A personification of chaos, a lord of misrule, a howling, hysterical metaphor for greed, lies and corruption. The main character was designed to be both laughed at and despised, and that’s still the case. He is here to gather us together as his prisoners, his acolytes, his victims – or his potential usurpers. He is a reminder that those in power will do their damnedest to make their reality our normality.
It’s up to us to collectively remember that there’s nothing normal about Ubu and his ilk. His behaviour beggars belief. He is cruel, nonsensical, cowardly, aggressive and beyond vile in his actions. Career-mad, he looks totally ridiculous, puts money over humanity in a heartbeat and has a vocabulary that leaves a lot to be desired. What an absurd creation, eh?’
At Quarry, Leeds Playhouse from 4 – 8 February.
Box office: 0113 213 7700; leedsplayhouse.org.uk
All photographs by Steve Tanner.