Ubu the King, Barbican Pit, London
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's chocolate mousse!
Sunday 04 December 2005
But this new version by David Greig, set in an old people's home, still has the capacity to shock - old people swearing profusely can always shock.
Greig said he hoped his version would be an "interesting and savage look at age in our society". In some ways he succeeds. To a certain extent it portrays the elderly and vulnerable in a far stronger and more humane way than television and the press generally allow, exploring their sexual urges and dramatising to good effect the banality of life in a care home.
Versions of Ubu have in the past been used to satirise dictatorships, but director Dominic Hill's production - a collaboration betyween Dundee Rep, Tron Theatre Glasgow and the Young Vic - fails as an allegory of despotism. Ubu kills the rich, the judges and the accountants after carrying out his coup on the king of Kazakhstan. After turning on the poor he finds himself powerless to prevent the Russian tsar from taking all his ill-gotten gains.
The action is funny, nothing more. It is too simplistic to have any deeper meaning. Alfred Jarry wrote the original when he was 23, and David Greig put together his translation eight years ago when he was of a similar age. As Greig admits, it has a very student-like feel to it.
Not that this necessarily matters. Ubu the King is, undoubtedly, great fun. The acting, led by a phenomenal Gerry Mulgrew as Dad Ubu, is superb throughout. Mulgrew receives strong support from Ann Louise Ross and Emun Elliott in particular.
A word of warning. Don't wear white. Food is liberally splattered about the stage and nappies full of what thankfully turned out to be chocolate mousse wing their way into the audience. SB
To 10 December, 0845 120 7500
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