Shetland Arts has announced that the Shetland Youth Theatre production of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (King Ubu) is to be performed from 9 to 11 September. The show was originally scheduled to take place in June but rehearsals clashed with other demands on the young performers, leading to the postponing of the original production. Now, after a summer break, the twenty-strong cast has re-grouped, re-rehearsed, and re-invigorated the show.
The production is billed as “a vulgar, brutal comedy of infantile megalomania.” It is a wild, bizarre fantasy that overturns all theatrical norms and traditions. It is an acknowledged masterpiece of absurdist theatre and a major precursor of Dadaism and – by extension – Surrealism. It satirises the work of Shakespeare and uses cartoon-like scatological humour to burst the balloon of bourgeois pomposity. When the play was first performed in Paris it provoked a riot in the audience. In the audience was an outraged W. B. Yeats who, after the performance raged, “What more is possible? After us, the savage God.”
At the core of the play is Ubu himself, an infantile antihero. For Jarry, Ubu was a metaphor for the modern man: vulgar, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, cruel, cowardly and evil. The world of the play is that of a cartoon burlesque where there is no place for consequence. Ubu is relentless in his ambition and cruelty but as there is little effect on those who inhabit this farcical world, he is reminiscent of a small child indulging in the most extreme temper tantrum.
The production has taken this idea of children, who through their actions hold up a mirror to the absurdities of an adult world, to an extreme. The performance is staged as an anarchic playgroup where young children act out their view of the world with no thought given to social niceties or restrictions. The result is a disturbing, relentless, rollercoaster view of adult absurdity seen through the uncensored eyes of the young.
Ubu Roi will be performed at Bell’s Brae Primary School in the GP Room, starts at 7.30pm & is suitable for age 12+.