Expressionist avant-garage band Pere Ubu and film-makers The Brothers Quay present Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi, an adaptation of Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry’s landmark play that inspired the band’s name and is widely seen as the precursor to the Absurdist, Dada and Surrealist art movements.
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|Written by Pere Ubu’s singer, David Thomas, it is as groundbreaking and radical in its intent as the original that sparked riots in a Paris theater in 1896 – a repudiation of common sense and the refined aesthetic at the heart of the Art-Industrial Complex, of which President Eisenhower warned so eloquently… or was that the Military-Industrial Complex? No matter, same sorta thing.
Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi premiered at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London’s Southbank Centre for a two night run April 24 and 25 2008.
This adaptation approaches theater with the unsettling ethos that Mr Thomas and his comrades have applied to music production since 1975. It incorporates the narrative voices of abstract and concrete sound into musical structure, creates an aural Theater of the Imagination, and facilitates the Intrusive Other – a mechanism by which the telling of a story incorporates Points Of View that run in parallel or at some angle to the central narrative, crossing it, intruding, overlaying, contradicting, deprecating, or even ignoring it.
Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi does not promote mayhem. It preserves mayhem. The theatrical production is framed by wide-screen animation from The Brothers Quay which serves as an innovative interpretation of Jarry’s staging instructions. David Thomas takes on the role of Père Ubu.
Ex-Communards singer Sarah Jane Morris performs the Mère Ubu role. Band members enact minor cast roles when not performing the 14 songs, or laying down the electronica ambience, that provide the live score to this 100 minute, two part show.
|Puppet-like choreographies, chaotic interventions, stark staging, and anti-naturalistic dramatic passages preserve the spirit of Jarry’s intentions. Other music groups have ventured into theater but never to the extent that the band itself, as a self-contained unit, undertakes all aspects of the production. Pere Ubu goes to places few others would even dare to dream of. We call it disasto so nothing can go wrong.
Jarry’s plays were widely and wildly hated for their vulgarity, brutality, low comedy and complete lack of literary finish. They were seen as the theatrical equivalent of an anarchist attack.
“One reason that Ubu Roi endures is that, like water is the Universal Solvent, Père Ubu is the Universal Monster,” Mr Thomas says.
“Whoever you personally think is the Bad Guy – whether you demonize those on the Left or the Right, or everyone In-Between – the Church or the State, Big Business or Big Labor – Père Ubu can supply the face and voice. Ubu is a portrait of the soul of every do-gooder monster.”