Ubu Roi @ Oran Mor

Review by Lorna Irvine | 13 Aug 2012

It’s impossible not to think of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu plays without using the 's' word, so let’s get it dispensed with right now: Surrealism. In its purest form, as opposed to the lazy sitcom writers’ school of “Wibble,” wherein a word is replaced with another random one. Yes indeed, translated, directed and adapted by Marcus Roche, this spiky satire on greed would sit well among the Dadaists: it starts before the introduction is even finished, which is perfect with the boisterous Pa Ubu (Barrie Hunter) running out onto Kenny Miller’s lovely chessboard set. It is peppered with inventive language (“Let me go, clunt (sic)…The Russians I could kill, a little…”) amid pure anarchy.

The trio, clad in white all-in-one underwear with painted blue faces and protuberances (sticky-out arses and stomachs) go wild with the source material, gleefully threatening audience members with summary execution, eating from a trough and making armour from tinfoil. There is fine work from Helen McAlpine as a chav-tastic Ma Ubu, her onesie embellished with Primark bling and high heels, and the Commander (Paul James Corrigan) is especially hideous, but it’s grotesque Pa Ubu’s show all the way. Hunter gives good bastard, spitting, roaring then just as suddenly giggling like a little girl, as he plots to overthrow first the King, then all who would come within ten yards of him.

This is the extent of the storyline, with double-bluffs and double-crossing and a bawdy sense of mischief pervading any threat of things getting too linear. As Spinal Tap’s own philosopher Nigel Tufnel stated, “There’s a fine line between clever and…stupid”. Ubu Roi straddles that line, then falls over it.

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