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King Ubu bursts with wicked fantasy

A "scandalous play" is how the Paris audience in 1896 described the play King Ubu. Written by French play-wright Alfred Jarry at the age of 15, it is considered a masterpiece of the international theater of the absurd and has shown in theatres and been featured in films around the world for over a century.
Evil, playfulness, non-conventionality , anarchism, individuality, vulgarity, and the stupidity of those who rule is what Jarry tries to show us. Ubu is a character who exists beyond time and place, who represents a side of everyone, said Milan Sládek, director of and actor in the Bratislava performance


King Ubu mime performance hits Aréna Theatre
photo: Ján Svrček

A "scandalous play" is how the Paris audience in 1896 described the play King Ubu. Written by French play-wright Alfred Jarry at the age of 15, it is considered a masterpiece of the international theater of the absurd and has shown in theatres and been featured in films around the world for over a century.

Evil, playfulness, non-conventionality , anarchism, individuality, vulgarity, and the stupidity of those who rule is what Jarry tries to show us. Ubu is a character who exists beyond time and place, who represents a side of everyone, said Milan Sládek, director of and actor in the Bratislava performance

The Bratislava production, which opened at the Divadlo Aréna February 25, is done entirely in mime, but its fanciful staging, costumes and action succeed in conveying a powerful message. The commanding character of Ubu is covered in rich green paint, and his hanging belly and huge cloth penis allude to his power. His wife Ubula, is equally massive and painted in rich red.

The courtiers which surround them are small mute persons painted in white. While not important, these small people try to convey their feelings of their own importance by farting, clapping and slapping each other. At the end, as all the characters mix together, the stage and actors become dirty and brownish. The exaggerated bums, penises, breasts, stomachs, and ears blending together make the performance a real visual adventure.

'Ubu'. Theatre of Movement, Divadlo Aréna-International Institute. Viedenská cesta 10, Tel.: 62 24 68 75. Tickets for 50 and 90 Sk are available at Divadlo Arena, Tues.-Fri., 15:00-17:00, the PKO Ticket Office, Hviezdoslavovo námestie 24, Tel.: 54 43 38 67, Mon.-Fi., 10:00-17:00 and The French Institute, Sedlárska 7, Tel.: 59 34 77 77.

- Soňa Bellušová

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