Alfred Jarry is known across the world as one of the fathers of absurdist theatre, and so to perform one of his most famous plays, Ubu Roi, you have to become a little absurd yourself. Jason Cavanagh has certainly done the famous play justice with his mud-splattered, all female rendition.
Ubu Roi is a parody of Macbeth, full of melodramatics, usurping kings and imaginative slurs. It is a tale of betrayal, power lust and total incompetence that will surprise, shock, and maybe bewilder just a little. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
The whole play is performed in ankle deep mud, with every aspect of costuming and props painted to match. The world of Ubu Roi is disgusting yet beautiful, and probably not far from the reality of medieval life. Everything is muddy in this play, even the music that opens and closes the performance.
Ubu Roi is a ridiculous frolic in the basest of the world’s pleasures, big muddy puddles. In a way it is childish, but it is no way a performance to take children to. The quasi-Shakespearean insults hurled by the characters are utterly hilarious and pretty creative but are, obviously, not meant for young ears or for the ears of anyone easily offended.
The acting, although suitably melodramatic and silly, was very high quality. The death scenes and fights were particularly impressive. It can’t be easy acting while covered head to toe in muck. The use of an all female cast (Freya Pragt, Sharon Davis, Juliet Hindmarsh, Michaela Bedel and Daniella Butlin) is also interesting, highlighting gender inequality in theatre, while at the same time digging deep into the real themes of Ubu Roi in a way not often explored.
Ubu Roi is dirty, obscene, and absolutely marvellous, if you don’t mind a bit of splatter of course.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Gluttony, Murlawirrapurka/Rymill Park, Cnr East Tce and Rundle St, Adelaide
Season: 15-26 February 2014
Duration: 70 mins
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or phone 1300 621 255