City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Ubu Roi

By iainmac - Posted on 11 August 2008

Show details
Cycling Fish Theatre
Running time: 

Alfred Jarry's original production of Ubu Roi in 1896 caused riots on its opening night and has since shaped alot of absurdist, Dada and Surrealist arts. Having started work on the play when he was 15, Jarry transformed Ubu from a puppet show mocking his highschool physics teacher into what a lot of people consider a theatrical master piece.

It tells the tale of Ubu Roi, a fat and vulgar anti-hero who is convinced by his wife to kill the King and take the thrown for himself. After he does this, the country becomes chaotic, with Ubu eating all the food and taking all the money from his citizens. The play, when done right, has the weight to be shocking, funny, disturbing and messy. Unfortunately, though, this was not executed to any extent by the relativly new theatre company, Cycling Fish.

The show began with an onstage keyboard player whose music set an unclear sound for the production. Ubu then was revealed with a cry of "merde" (which was what caused outcry in Jarry's original production). The use of the profanity in French confused me, as the production was entirely in English, as opposed to Jarry's whose was in his native tongue. The production then cracked jokes which have been heard all too often on television programmes and never really offended anyone. Its slow pace never allowed the anarchy to come alive and watching the actors laugh at their own jokes was embarrassing. The play ended before Jarry's text but with that I was relieved. I don't think the company realised the responsibility that comes with a production like Ubu - it appeared to be a group having a bit too much fun themselves and the audience was forgotten.

If you didn't get to see this production then don't fret. I still am yet to see a better production of Ubu than Theatre Modo's stunning version a few years back, and I think if this is anything to go by, I will be waiting a long, long time.

Times: Aug 2-9 at 17:20 (no show Aug 3)