Carrots used as weapons and as symbolism against the 19th century French bourgeois? Yes, please! The original Ubu Roi, directed by Alfred Jerry in 1896, caused both riots and nausea during its two day lifespan on stage. Now the University of East Anglia’s Sacré Théâtre, one of the longest running French theatre companies in the United Kingdom, are cooking up their own version of Ubu Roi. Norfolk Storytelling Project’s Alistair Nicoll and Holly J. McDede joined the actors for a rehearsal to get a taste for themselves, and Vladimira Molcanova brought back this story.
In one scene in Ubu La Grande Bouffe, Captain Bordure and his men are invited by Pere Ubu and Mere Ubu for dinner. The menu starts with soup polonais, a Polish type of soup, and then it’s followed by veal and then dog pate. Then the rear end of a chicken, Russian shallot, and then the last crowning glory is souffle a la merde. Claudine Tourniaire, a UEA French lecturer and performer in the play, happily translates that as “shit sauce.”
If the play is anything like that menu, prepare for some ups and downs.
“You hear the menu, and some of it is actually quite nice, and then some of the items are totally inedible, and some other items might make you want to throw up, basically,” Tourniaire explained.
Thomas Monument, one of the actors in Sacré Théâtre, plays King Pere Ubu. During the rehearsal, Monument wore Ubu’s classic robe and a fat suit. The robe features a memorising black spiral meant to represent neverending greediness. Everything he eats is meant to disappear into his spiraling stomach.
The swirl is supposed to accentuate the stomach to show how fat he is,” Monument explained. “Pere Ubu is large, overweight, middle class. He wants to be king. He wants to be ruler of the world. He wants all the riches for himself.”
The play’s writer originally wrote King Ubu as a caricature of his physics teacher, but it’s more than just a joke. There were many riots around in the 19th century France when the play was written.
“We had a huge empire, the boujoir class was very powerful and all about acquiring wealth, next to which there was a lot of poverty, a lot of problems,” Claudine Tourniaire explained. “Some people wanted to be independent, revolt, the whole empire starting to crack everywhere, and so there was a lot of unrest.”
The original screenplay was meant to be provocative from the start. It didn’t take much for it to open the door for modernism in the 20th century Ralph Yarrow, THE director of Sacré Théâtre plays King Wenceslaus in the play.
“It opens with a manipulation of a very well-known French word, a naughty word,” Yarrow said. “At this word half the audience were supposed to have had a fit and screamed and tried to walk out. “
According to Tourniaire, the audience might actually benefit from not understanding a lot of the disgusting and sometimes gruesome images throughout the play.
“This is going to be a foreign language play, in French, for largely an English speaking audience. So I think they are going to be protected by the language barrier, and in some cases maybe they won't understand at all,” Tourniaire said. “But what I do hope is that it is going to be a surprise and quite a good piece of entertainment.”
Before you see the play, you might want to skip dinner. That’s especially true for the first row audience. Come hungry, there will be food flying around.
“At some point King Ubu reluctantly throws money at the crow. And it's not going to be money, it's going to be things like smarties,” Tourniaire said/ “I'm not quite sure what, but it’s going to be edible.”
This art piece IS meant to give you something to think about. It’s meant to push people to the edge of their seats till they want to leave, or throw a rotten piece of fruit on to the stage. The original play did end up in a riot. Modern viewers probably won’t riot. They’ll probably leave and maybe even grab a bite to eat afterwards.
Remember, they can try to hold us down, but they cannot take away our appetite.
Ubu: la Grande Bouffe will be performed at the UEA Drama Studio 18th -21st March 2015 from 7.30pm. Tickets from UEA Box office 01603 508050/http://www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk/
Written by Vladimira Molcanova with production assistance from Alistair Nicoll
Licence : All Rights Reserved