Ubu: holding a mirror to society
Graeae’s new adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu caused controversy before it hit the stage. Newham Council and ‘The Guardian’ newspaper banned an advert for the play: the council because it depicted smoking and fur- wearing and the liberal newspaper, due to a naked bottom with ‘arsehole’ graffitoed on the left cheek.
Jerry is probably chortling in his grave. In the 100 years since he wrote
Ubu Roi, the story of the dork who kills L
the king of Poland at the behest of his nasty wife, then runs rampant over Eastern Europe, has lost its original shock value.
Not for Graeae, however. ‘When we first opened, one or two people walked out,’ claims scouser Mandy Colleran, who plays the manipulative and sexually rampant Ma Ubu. ‘I don’t know whether it was because they expected to see a nice piece of theatre by a lot of disabled people who were going to be terribly placid and sing happy songs or something.’
The Graeae theatre company takes its name from the three sisters of Greek myth who shared a single tooth and one eye and were ripped off by
Perseus. It is reckoned to be Europe’s premier theatre company of disabled people.
Ubu is Graeae’s first production that is not specifically disability-based, says artistic director Ewan Marshall. The company has tried to hold true to Jarry’s aim of holding a mirror up to society’s ignoble self.
‘People behaving badly can be
extremely attractive, but it is also very
shocking because it is not what is expected of disabled people,’ says Marshall. ‘There is still an oppressive and narrow stereotypical view which doesn’t go with disabled people being assertive and aggressive. Making Ubu very contemporary with savage political satire was part of our choice and is why I think it is particularly relevant to our company.’ (Thom Oibdin)
Obu, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 8-12 Feb.
! Idle rich
, As the Citizens’ spring
9 season swings into action, ? Fiona Shepherd talks to Anne Lambton about incest, lust and deceit.
If someone were to take on the task of writing a play documenting the various sleaze scandals of the past parliamentary year. the end product 5 would be a catalogue of ‘ misdemeanours and immorality. But no matter how far it went in its portrayal of incorrectness in politics. it couldn't be as politically incorrect as Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women. ‘They don't write them like this anymore.‘ agrees actress Anne Lambton. who plays the scheming widow Livia. ‘No one would dare write it now and try to get it put on. No one
’ could write so callously now.’
‘She’s just bored, rich and in a society where she’s got nothing to do.’ The play is a convoluted series of ' intrigues. devised initially by Livia and . her partner-in-plotting the Duke of Florence. played by the excellent Gerrard McArthur. which take on a momentum of their own and reveal a thorough debauchery in the upper echelons ofsociety. : ‘No one could touch those people then.‘ says Lambton. ‘lt would have been treason if you‘d said anything against the behaviour ofthe top of society. But evcryone's shown in a bad light. They say “black is white" and someone says “no. surely white is
black“ and they say “yeah. white is ; black. I‘ve always said that white is , black".‘ Lambton seems to relish her role playing the architect ofthe duplicitous and dangerous liaisons. ’There‘s incest, lust. betrayal and deceit’ — she counts them off on her ﬁngers — ‘and I arrange quite a lot of it. l arrange the incest. i make my house available and arrange the adultery.
‘Maybe Livia is the archetypal wicked
. Anne Lambton: architect of the duplicitous
lady but once you get into the part she‘s very reasonable. She's just bored. rich and in a society where she's got nothing to do. Women were not allowed to have lovers. She‘s a widow twice over and still can't take a lover. So she’s a reasonable wotnan who just maybe goes a little bit too far to stay interested.‘ (Fiona Shepherd)
Women Beware Women. Citizens" Thea/re. Glasgow, I’ri 32.811! 25 l’eb.
‘nnnnulllllll 3 Street life
It was German thinker Walter Benjamin who first conceived of his
, life as a geography rather than a
j biography. This idea of drawing a map .
' of your life has inspired David Greig’s
latest theatrical expedition, following
on from last year’s main stage
i success, Europe. ‘I wanted to put on a
story about how people relate
; imaginatively to cities,’ says Greig.
l ‘Benjamin was writing at a time when
i the modern city was just discovering
what it was, and this is an attempt to see how cities shape people.’
To this end, Greig, along with actor Graham Eatough, developed the story of a man who sits in 3 Berlin cafe writing cheap tourist guides and finds himself, through his work, exploring his own life. This takes us on a metaphysical journey from lancashire : to Glasgow, Brussels, Marseilles and ’ back to Berlin. ‘It’s not a linear journey. Rather, it’s an attempt to present information in a different way. This play’s allowed me a chance to do something experimental and combines
lots of things that interest me. As well as text, there’s lots of gestural movement, along with slides and Super 8 film.’
One Way Street then is more a play for one actor than mere monologue, with Eatough’s contribution to its dramatic development vital. ‘What we do in rehearsal affects what I write the next day,’ says Greig. ‘Graham has had just as much creative input as me, though it isn’t devised.’
Greig and Eatough first worked
One Way Street: it’s better to travel
together at Bristol University, where they founded Suspect Culture in order to create a forum for experimentation outwith normal production pressures. ‘If everything goes well, this show will develop and go on in other places. We’ve adopted a philosophy of try anything, so we can push ideas as far . as possible, then wait and see what happens.’ (Neil Cooper) 3 One Way Street, Suspect Culture, l Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed
1-Sun 5 Feb.
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