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Albion Unbound

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Ubu Roi [Jan. 26th, 2011|11:18 pm]
Albion Unbound


One of those chain of circumstances unravelled today. A colleague at work gave me a catalogue of drama dvds. Idly looked in catalogue - saw that there was a BBC production of Ubu, which I didn't know existed. $150. So I check the catalogue of the dvd library I run - no - but when I checked the main library catalogue, it was there. I went racing off and got it. Then returning to the office mum turned up, and when I mentioned Ubu she said she'd given me a copy as a teenager - which I don't remember at all (it probably got put with Rabelais and A Clockwork Orange, which I dismissed at the time and now wish that I'd had the nous to appreciate)... So was the origins of the whole project?

Anyway, I'd read the play (again) at the start of the project, and had a broadly similar reaction to it - recognising how unusual it was, and how relevant it was to my ideas, but not actually liking it much. It was really hard going to read, one of those plays that's particularly ill-suited to being reduced to a text and needs to be seen in performance to get it properly. It was the same for the Shakespeare and watching the whole BBC boxet - but until now I didn't know about the BBC's Ubu. Watched it tonight - a condensed version, with Donald Pleasance as Ubu, which I didn't spot till the credits. Donald Pleasance?! Per-schitt! At first I didn't enjoy it beyond its obvious usefulness in seeing it staged, but I warmed to it quite a bit, the deliberate 10p-ness of the production, and Donald P seemed to really get into the part by the end. Play prefaced by an amusingly dated introduction, precis and analysis (opening spiel by seasoned American actor Jose Ferrer) which basically points out it's a big parody of classical tragedies (implies particularly Macbeth), inverting, bawdlerising and lampooning the form and its conventions. It's 10p-ness and shambolic nature is as much a part of the parody as the crude humour and madcap action.

Bakhtin dismisses all theatre by virtue of its form apart from Shakespeare, Ibsen and Jarry - and Jarry he sees as recognising the grotesque, or at least capturing an echo of it... and the production captured it too, most noticeably Ma Ubu's grotesquely exaggerated breasts.

Need to refresh myself on the text and what Bakhtin said about it. And then work out how it fits into the thesis.