Ubu

Alfred Jarry
Translated and Adapted by Martin Danziger and the company, with songs and lyrics by Nick Underwood
Theatre Modo Roxie Art House, Edinburgh
(2005)

Ubu publicity image

Theatre Modo's adaptation of this classic text takes its stars Pa and Ma Ubu (Robert Jack and Louise Allan, respectively) to Scotland, where they scheme along with the not-entirely-trustworthy sidekick, played by Nick Underwood, to overthrow the monarch, rule the country, and make sure they're the owners of all the coolest stuff in the land.

All three performers are well suited to their parts, and run riot with their portrayal of the three unsavoury characters. While one might think it would be Jack's Pa Ubu that would be most outrageous, this title actually goes to Louise Allan.

Although this production has been touring for some time now (it played in Glasgow several months ago) it is full of up-to-the-minute satire on current situations, both specific and general.

Like last August's Fatboy at the Assembly Rooms (based on the same text), Ubu makes great use of profanity and vulgarity. These range from the fairly innocuous - for examples, Pa Ubu's wielding of a giant dildo on a pole as his scepter - to the completely revolting. Audience members with weak stomachs should mind that they shut their eyes when the vegetable phallus comes out, or else they may never look at Marmite the same way.

Nick Underwood's musical compositions keep the pace of the piece moving along, and prevent the evening from getting weighed down by the depravity which confronts audience members at every turn. The songs are delivered simply and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and are a welcome reminder to the audience that while the events on stage are dark ones, they are not to be taken completely seriously.

It might be worth mentioning that audience members not eager to participate in the night's show might want to avoid sitting anywhere easily accessible to the actors, as over the course of the evening the fourth wall is broken again and again. Some instances - when the characters take refuge amongst audience members to plot against their ruler - are unsettling, while others (involving cans of lager, ten pound notes, and tomatoes) had the audience in hysterics.

The audience at Ubu was made up of all ages, and while some members of the audience seemed disturbed during the performance, once it was over there was plenty of applause. As the show continues on its tour through Lyth, Hoy, Cumbernauld, and beyond, it would be well worth while for those in search of truly different theatre to think about seeking it out.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody