Skip to main content

Ubu and the Truth Commission

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Four stars
“Our reign of terror,” says Pa Ubu at one point in director William
Kentridge, writer Jane Taylor and Handspring Puppet Company's
reimagining of Alfred Jarry's grotesque fable on power, corruption and
lies to post-apartheid South Africa, “was no reign of error.” Wandering
the stage like an overgrown baby in grubby vest and Y-fronts, Ubu here
is a general on the make, whose liaison with Ma Ubu may look as
multi-cultural as it comes, but is one which hides a multitude of sins.

Much of this comes out by fusing Jarry's play with real-life
testimonies from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
in which witnesses laid bare a litany of institutionalised brutality.
These testimonies are relayed by puppets, operated by a trio of
performers, with English translations provided by the other performers
situated in a glass booth beside them. They are visualised even more
powerfully in a series of chalky monochrome animations by Kentridge,
which are projected onto a billboard at the back of the stage and
counterpointed with archive footage of real-life Township massacres.

Both devices lend a Brechtian simplicity to a production first seen in
1997, when the Commission was still ongoing, as do the puppets of Ubu's
wild dogs and a crocodile who gobbles up any incriminating evidence.

As the Ubus, David Minnaar and Busi Zokufa capture the full grubbiness
of their domestic bliss and the warped ambitions that drive them. It is
Ubu's final speech to the commission that lets him away with murder
before he and  Ma Ubu sail off into the sunset, however, which suggests
a whitewash of the highest order.

The Herald, August 29th 2014


ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …