The Life and Crimes of President Ubu

Bad language, bad taste, body parts, etc etc.
OFS Studio, Wed 2nd - Sat 5th, Tue 8th Sat - 12th August 2006

August 2, 2006
Adapted by Simon Rae from the absurdist/surrealist play Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, this is a splendidly well-realised satirical shot at the Gulf War and its ensuing fallout. Tom Blackmore’s well thought out direction mixes grotesque clowning, slapstick and excellent songs. The result is a pantomime that works from the opening word – shite – (in homage to Jarry’s merdre: both add a letter – clever, eh?!) to the final lyric: by coincidence also containing the word shite!

As the dictatorial president slowly falls to the inevitable war-crimes’ trial we are presented with a wonderful series of inept doubles, unintelligent intelligence operatives (disguised as a fantastically lugubrious pantomime camel), weapons inspectors, prisoners and judiciary. All of these, excepting the president and his wife, were played with energy and humour by Abigail Hollick, David Thurston, and Felix Kemp (who also accompanied the songs on the piano and, with Sue Casson, should be justly proud of the success of all musical interludes).

Run away stars of the show were the two leads. Anna Stolli creates a wonderful Ma Ubu: part Imelda Marcos; part Eva Peron; part Lady Macbeth scarily combined with just enough Mary Poppins to make her husband behave! She moved effortlessly from ice maiden to comic foil and also sang beautifully. Her timing was precise and her pacing contributed much to the whole.

David Keller’s performance as the grotesque President was simply stunning. Combining Max Wall, Albert Steptoe and Compo to produce a great comic creation, he also managed to convey the greed and violence of a dictator who cares nothing for his people except as cannon fodder. And all this in a vest and pants!

The satire effortlessly draws clear parallels with recent and current events in the Middle East – songs to the fore here – and was much enjoyed by the audience for this first of two preview performances. On this evidence the first night on Thursday 3rd August will herald a splendid run both here and in Edinburgh.
The satire was pretty well predictable and this play gave us nothing new. In fact, I would expect only those politically obsessed with Iraq would find this remotely entertaining. It's all old ground. The cast carry on gamely and the singing was fine but I can't see a need for a play satirising Iraq. It's around us all the time.
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