Saturday, April 04, 2009


Artisans Drama Society at the Brentwood Theatre


Jarry's ground-breaking play began life as a schoolboy jape. Something of that naïve, out-to-shock brashness survived in Nicola Stacey's colourful production.

The backdrop, also primitive and childlike, was based on the author's own ideas, and the gleefully scatological script was tackled with some enthusiasm, particularly by Vernon Keeble-Watson as old man Ubu, and Wendi Shead as his wife.

A predominantly young cast doubled as puppeteers – like the unconvincing padding, the papier-mâché feast and the grotesque masks, the fluffy puppets – so many refugees from Avenue Q – were reminders of the ancient traditions to which this piece is heir.

There was a lovely mock battle between the mighty armies of Alice Stacey and Georgina Hayworth.

Jarry set his piece in a mythical Poland. How could he know that in the hundred years between then and now this land would be ravaged by the warfare he so savagely satirised, see communism and its overthrow, not to mention the birth of a pope …

“It's just like the silent movies !” commented one of the chatty ladies in the third row. She was referring, I think, to the lugubrious and slightly sinister Sign Changer [Graham Poulteney] always accompanied by Matt the organ grinder, whom I like to imagine as the schoolboy Alfred, smiling cynically at his creation.

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