Aug 3, 5-9, 11-14, 16-21, 23-28 2.35pm
All the world’s grotesqueness on a table…
or what happens when a power-hungry vinegar bottle, hammer and sugar bowl fight for the Polish throne.
Québec’s foremost object theatre company, Théâtre de la Pire Espèce, presents the UK premiere of their international hit Ubu on the Table at Summerhall from Wednesday 3 to Sunday 28 August for the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. After over 800 performances around the world, in more than 15 countries, this acclaimed adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi comes to Scotland.
All bets are off as the fate of Poland is sealed on a tabletop. Two armies of French baguettes face each other in a stand-off as tomato bombs explode, an egg beater hovers over fleeing troops and molasses-blood splatters on fork-soldiers.
The objects' raw form and the performance's frenetic pace are perfectly suited to Alfred Jarry's cruel farce. Together with the Bottle as Père Ubu, the Mini-Mop as his wife Mère Ubu, the Big Teapot as King Wenceslas, the Hammer as Captain Bordure and many other bizarre kitchen utensils that double as gorging tools and weapons to annihilate the “sagouins”, two talented actor-puppeteers hammer out a small-scale fresco of grandiose buffoonery.
What was the inspiration for this performance?
Other than the obvious Alfred Jarry pataphysics’ influence, the inspiration came from many things. The mechanisms of clown acting, the excessiveness of Hollywood cinema, animated movies and street theatre were some of the themes that inspired us during the creative process. What was important was to give life to a story on a miniature stage (the table) with spectacular effects. The different influences allowed us to find several tricks in order to achieve this.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Olivier and I were the first puppeteers of the show and the two artistic directors of Théâtre de la Pire Espèce. The creation of Ubu on the Table launched our first artistic collaboration, and our company, Théâtre de la Pire Espèce, was born from this first crazy production. Even if our work can be very different today from what drove us in this production, we still thrive on the same effervescence of imagination and on our need to laugh, reminding us that theatre can still be a game.
Over the years, we found a few people that shared the same spirit and even if we can’t afford a full time acting team, we like to think of our company as a brotherhood of merry demiurges. As the success of Ubu grew, we needed to train new actors for simultaneous tours. That’s how Mathieu Gosselin and Étienne Blanchette came to perform in Ubu on the table. They are close collaborators of the company and also create and perform with us in other shows.
As for the cast of objects, we had a few auditions at the time…
|Credit: Mathieu Doyon|
How did you become interested in making performance?
We love secluded experimentations, far away from the world in our “laboratory”, as well as collective celebrations! Theatre can combine the two; we rightfully thought it was made for us!
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
As I mentioned, we love doing research. That’s why each of the company’s projects is different from any other and has its own creative process. The only constancy is that we allow ourselves the luxury of time to create. Our shows can develop over several steps of experimentations and sometimes over years. Ubu was developed pretty quickly in that sense but the show kept being polished and it evolved during its years of touring. In a way, the creative process is never over in performing arts and that’s what we love about it.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Hopefully the basic pleasure of seeing everyday objects differently, to rediscover this capacity of wonder unique to children. There are stories hiding behind every object, you just need to look carefully at them.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We single out the spectator. He/she is active during the performance. It is his/her task to fill in the blanks. Object theatre is always allusive; the spectator has to want to play. He/she is also working: he/she participates in writing the storyline by filling in the missing information, it keeps him/her wide awake.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
Yes, several of them actually. Without specializing in any of them, we borrow different elements from traditional techniques such as hand puppets, clown, shadow theatre, etc. Puppetry offers a wealth of traditions that are fun to play with but also to reinvent.
Ubu On The Table was translated into English by Bobby Theodore and created by Olivier Ducas and Francis Monty. It is performed by Étienne Blanchette and Mathieu Gosselin with lighting by Jonas Bouchard.
Since its creation, the critically acclaimed and multi-award winning show Ubu on the Table has taken to the stage in cities and festivals in more than 15 countries, including France, Spain, Belgium, Finland, Romania, Bulgaria, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey and Russia.
Founded in 1999 in Montréal by Francis Monty and Olivier Ducas, La Pire Espèce is a pioneer in object theatre in Québec and one of its puppetry scene’s leading figures. Impertinent, festive and witty, the company’s approach to theatre combines raw materials with unbridled imagination, baroque plenitude with surgical precision. La Pire Espèce’s repertoire is now made up of 19 original productions that have been performed around the world.