Have you ever wanted to read/watch something because of the controversy it caused? That’s the only reason I decided to read the 19th Century French play Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry. For those who don’t know, what happened on opening night was the very first line of the play is “SHIT!” which caused the French gentry to lose it immediately. Top that off with tons of violence and satirizing modern French politics and the play needed to be stalled because people were rioting. Yes, 19th Century French gentry were rioting. The was never a production of the play for decades after that.
Right, so the story is about Pere Ubu, a fat, stupid, uncouth dragoon captain who decides to kill the King of Poland and take the throne. The Queen and Prince of Poland are still alive and want to get their kingdom back.
I’m not sure if this is the stupidest play I’ve ever read or it’s one of the most brilliant. On one hand, it’s surreal and ridiculous to the point that it is funny. On the other, the comedy does get stale pretty quickly and Pere Ubu saying “shitr” (yes, that’s how they spell it) gets old as well as lines like “by my green candle.” Not to mention the overly melodramatic lines and Pere Ubu being a huge douche bag that deserves to die.
He also gets stabbed and shot a ton of times and doesn’t die.
I have seen some performances of this play on Youtube and yeah, the acting and lines get dull after a while as the joke dies.
Brilliance, underrated or complete trash, you have to hand it to Jarry that he made a play that small troupes are willing to experiment with. That, I guess is one positive about this play: it allows people to experiment how hey put it on. There are puppet theater versions and versions with insane costumes that are just bedsheets with some designs or signs on them.
I’m, in a way, glad I read this play because I do like to see experimental stuff but sometimes experimental does get boring after a while and this play does get boring after a while. Either it’s the translation I read or the play gives it everything in the first three acts and then loses all steam in the last two.
Eh, shitr happens.