BONKERS would probably sum up Ubu Roi at the Oxford Playhouse this week until Saturday — but in a good
BONKERS would probably sum up Ubu Roi at the Oxford Playhouse this week until Saturday — but in a good way.
Cheek By Jowl gives us an energetic mix of physical theatre, laughs, hallucinations and violence with portions of Macbeth, The Revenger’s Tragedy, Oedipus Rex and Alan Ayckbourn — although long before his time.
Add in that it’s a Polish tale played entirely in French with English surtitles and the challenges become clear.But that’s quickly forgotten — some working French helps, but it’s not necessary. We dip into the theatre of the absurd to see an eloquent but adolescent mind at work. This work was first performed in 1896 when the writer, Alfred Jarry, was 23 and it had been forming in his mind for 10 years before that.
It’s brought right up-to-date by opening with a young man playing with a video camera and we see the results transmitted to the back of the stage. He and his family are preparing for a dinner party, and we get a clue when the lens lingers on his mother clad only in underwear while in the bathroom. After that we step in and out of the teenager’s imagination as he creates ever more weird situations involving Polish royalty and figures. Nowadays we would see the strong influence of Freud in this work — and perhaps it has been directed that way.
It operates on many levels and is great just as a night out without having to shift the mental gears out of neutral. But if you want to, the gears can engage all the way up to overdrive in this spirited show.
Ubu Roi is at the Oxford Playhouse until tomorrow (Saturday). Box office: 01865 305305.