To tell the truth, this Ubu becomes something of a bore. Canadian director Keith Turnbull's production rarely solves the problems of pacing raised by Toovey's rather generous helpings of 18th/19th-century pastiche interspersed with longish stretches of folksy neo-medievalism. Any sting left in the piece is cauterised by the St David's Hall auditorium, with its easy-going acoustics and lack of proper intimacy. Such a work surely demands the intense atmosphere of a small theatre where the sound can come at the audience. Here, though Toovey had the voices amplified at some cost to the aural geography, the words - four-letter and others - were often lost, leaving one wondering at the pious naughtiness on the singers' faces.
As for the orchestral writing, smoothly handled by the 13-player MTW Ensemble under the unfailingly musical Micheal Rafferty, it may sometimes be too nice for the subject, but it does argue a versatility of ear and technique which, with sharper integration of materials, could yet find an ideal home in the musical theatre.
However, the faint aura of undergraduate theatre which hangs about Jarry is, if anything, exaggerated by that slightly arch manner professional singers have with risque material until taken in hand by a strong director. Toovey needs to make up his mind on the singers-or-actors question. Ubu is, among other things, a tour de force of vocalism: while it is out of the question for actors, they would, nevertheless, inject more venom into the story.
Tonight at St David's Hall (0222- 371 236). Then touring, including the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 5 Oct (071-928 8800).Reuse content