Founded in 1980 in Cornwall, Kneehigh is not your average theatre company. Known for imaginative and interactive performances, the latest show is a rowdy two hours that will live long in the memory.
Ubu! A Singalong Satire is based on Ubu Roi, a play by French writer Alfred Jarry that was first staged in 1896, and gets the audience fully involved.
There’s no ‘please switch off your mobiles’ in this extravaganza; tweeting is encouraged and we were free to wander where we wanted during the evening at The Marble Factory in Bristol, a former Victorian warehouse owned by nightclub business Motion.
Ubu: ‘That deranged dictator we all love to hate’
The show is the story of how Ubu is convinced by his wife to kill the president of Lovelyville and takes power.
Ubu’s rule is far from lovely as he imprisons the president’s daughter in the zoo (real prisons don’t exist because Lovelyville really is that lovely) and makes life hard for the country’s residents (the audience).
Throughout the riotous 120 minutes in association with Bristol Old Vic, the audience is very much part of the action. Almost every song comes with words on screens around the venue and we’re encouraged to join in.
There are other even more interactive moments with the crowd competing in the Lovelyville Olympics and if you’re stood close to the stage, be prepared for your belongings to be seized to comply with evil Ubu’s tax on enjoyment!
The 124-year-old play is brought up to date with several references to modern politicians including Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. They both end in a giant toilet.
Katy Owen is a joy as Mr Ubu and her hilarious and sometimes hideous facial expressions are superb. Mike Shepherd is great too as the crude and grotesque pantomime dame-like Mrs Ubu.
Niall Ashdown as Jeremy Wardle keeps it all going brilliantly as the host. With a show like this, there can be no set script at all times and there were some great moments on press night as he responded to the audience’s enthusiasm.
The Sweaty Bureaucrats are wonderful as the house band and singer Nandi Bhebhe impresses and proves to be an equally impressive fighter against Ubu’s dictatorship.
I really enjoyed the show overall but I must admit it took the first act to get into it. I felt I wasn’t alone in that as others tried to get their heads around just exactly what was going on!
But by the end of the third and final act, we were all belting out the songs.
All that is part of the experience though. This is not theatre as you know it and that’s fantastic.
Ubu! A Singalong Satire is at The Marble Factory until 25 January.