Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry’s 1896 avant-garde satire about greed and the abuse of power, was outlawed for its scandalous language, violence and disrespect for authority. It’s a hilarious play unlike anything you’ve seen. The play runs from March 20th to April 5th at the Freddy Wood Theatre. Tickets to UBU Roi are only $10 for students and 2 for 1 for all faculty, staff and UNA residents ($11)
By Deb Pickman.
On it’s Paris premier in 1896 Alfred Jarry’s play UBU Roi provoked a 15 minute riot with it’s first word and was instantly banned. This is deservedly one of the theatre’s most remarkable plays, featuring some of its most unforgettable characters. With resonances of Macbeth and unflinching humour, UBU Roi, is an avant-garde satire of greed, stupidity and the abuse of power. This powerful play opens on March 20 at UBC’s historic Frederic Wood Theatre.
Here is my Q & A with MFA Directing student Ryan Gladstone who is at the helm of the production, which features the work of students in the BFA Acting Ensemble and BFA Design:
When did you decide to commit yourself to a theatre career?
I’ve been a storyteller since birth! My brother and I wrote our first movie when I was about four, heavily influenced by Star Wars. In high school I discovered a place in Calgary called Loose Moose Theatre run by Improv guru Keith Johnstone, and from that point on I’ve been creating theatre.
What compelled you to direct UBU Roi for your thesis?
I’ve wanted to do this play for a long time. When I learned about the riots that followed the opening words at its’ premiere, I was so excited that theatre could have this kind of an effect. In 2002 I saw a production in Ottawa which was fun and wild, but I felt there was something missing. From that point I started thinking about how one could create a production of UBU that recreated the shock and outrage from the original production.
Why do you think people should see this show?
Our production of UBU is a high energy, fast-paced, chaotic, and hilarious take on Jarry’s original play. My guess is that many audience members will have never seen anything quite like it. The play was actually created first when Jarry was only 14 years old with some schoolmates to lampoon a teacher and performed with marionettes in an attic. We tried to capture this adolescent feeling by setting our play as if it was performed by a group of schoolgirls. It adds to the chaos of it all.
What was your greatest challenge taking on this production?
With my own theatre company Monster Theatre I’ve created over twenty original plays, none of which has featured more than three actors. This production of UBU has 16 performers playing over 40 parts! So, orchestrating that many humans on our huge set has been a new adventure for me. It’s been immensely fun and also challenging.
What are your aspirations after graduation?
Keep creating original theatre! I’ve already started work on Monster Theatre’s next play that I am writing and directing, a puppet murder mystery called ‘Who killed Gertrude Crump?’
Who are your theatrical heroes? Your favourite director’s, practitioners, playwrights, directors and/or characters from plays.
In Calgary I spent ten years working with Loose Moose Theatre and studying with Keith Johnstone and am hugely inspired by his ideas. Other theatrical faves are Bertolt Brecht, Mump and Smoot, Balinese mask theatre, and of course, Alfred Jarry. My two other main influences are not theatrical at all, Joseph Campbell the professor of comparative mythology, and Chuck Jones and the other geniuses who created the early Looney Tunes cartoons in the 30’s, 40’s and 50s.
Those poor souls who rarely or never come to theatre – tell them what they’re missing?
UBU will be one they won’t want to miss. There is nothing pretentious or cliched about it, an utterly original production that will have them laughing out loud, and hopefully shocked by the end.
Thanks to Ryan Gladstone for sharing this behind the scenes look with us. The play runs from March 20 to April 1. For more about UBU Roi or to purchase tickets see http://www.theatre.ubc.ca/ubu_roi/index.html
Photo Credit: Tim Matheson