Review: Ubu! A Singalong Satire At Shoreditch Town Hall
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Cornwall’s Kneehigh theatre company returns to London with this lively tale of an intellectually challenged would-be dictator who seizes power and stamps out all opposition. The show is based on Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, which caused riots when it premiered in Paris in 1896. There was no rioting on the night we visited — rather, we were obediently charmed into festive contentment by MC Jeremy Wardle, played by Niall Ashdown.
The acting takes inspiration from the French clowning tradition, with slapstick that involves characters hitting each other with everyday objects. The show includes some impressive dance and acrobatic moves. Katy Owen, in the starring role, is slightly built but punches above her weight, as the crude, scheming tyrant. Mike Shepherd is a pantomime joker Mrs Ubu, who is every bit as cruel as her husband.
Ubu is in many ways more like a gig, karaoke or stand-up show than a play. You can do lots of things that aren’t normally allowed in the theatre: walk around, take photos, tweet, and buy drinks during the performance. As you would expect from a singalong, audience participation, while not obligatory, is an important part of the fun. Live funk band the Sweaty Bureaucrats and vocalist Nandhi Bhebe lead the crowd through a catalogue of pop classics from Bowie to Britney. The show is ideal for anyone who doesn’t like the hush and stillness usually required of audience members. Seats are available in the upstairs gallery — for those who prefer a bit of distance between themselves and the performers.
Ubu! A Singalong Satire, Shoreditch Town Hall, Old Street, EC1V 9LT. Tickets £18-£25, until 21 December 2019.
Last Updated 13 December 2019