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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars

on 1 May 2017
As with most plays, I think Ubu Roi suffers quite a lot from being read as a script rather than watched. This is particularly noticeable in this instance, as any production of Jarry's work would likely derive much of its humour from the means in which they attempt to recreate some of the play's more ambitious scenes; and this, of course, is in addition to the loss of any other visual humour, the chemistry between well-rehearsed actors, and any sense of how lines were intended to be spoken. There are also some relatively lengthy segments in which characters simply describe through dialogue events which are meant to be taking place on stage: one imagines that a performance of the play would manage a dramatic improvement on the raw script by showing these instead of just spelling them out.

Otherwise, Ubu Roi is pretty good, if a little short. A couple of the lines manage to be very funny (A CLOWN makes a star turn in Act II), even in the emaciated script format, and where jokes don't quite hit it's easy to see how they'd be improved with the visual and physical additions the script obviously lacks. The only really poor scene is the long procession of unfortunates Ubu throws into the de-braining machine: this is meant to be an ad-libbed segment, but both examples of how it has been interpreted drag out the joke for far too long and never really manage to be funny. The plot (a pretty thin cod-Shakespeare tragedy) adequately serves its purpose of supporting the series of comic burlesques which are the main draw of Ubu Roi. Similarly, in keeping with the anti-play ethos, the characters run through various shades of one- and two-dimensionality, and don't show any development outside of dying. But it's pretty clear this was never meant to be an intellectually complex work.

I don't know any French, so I can't speak for the quality or purity of the translation, but the odd couple of lines do come off a bit awkwardly, and there are a fair number of typos. I'm also not sure I agree with the rendering of Ubu's name as 'Turd', but this doesn't have much impact on the enjoyment of the script itself.

I've knocked off a star for the slightly stilted effect that reading a play script gives, but, held to its own standards, Ubu Roi is good at what it intends to do, and Ubu himself has gained new relevance as a caricature in recent months. Ultimately, though, you've got to see it live. It'd be much better live.
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on 5 December 2013
There had been nothing remotely like 'Ubu Roi' in French theatre when the play was staged for the first time in the 1890s. Today it can be difficult for modern audiences to appreciate the once daring and innovative style of the play and its language. This particular edition of 'Ubu Roi' hardly helps matters by translating the names of Ubu Roi and his wife as 'Papa Turd' and 'Mama Turd'. Jarry would not have approved.
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on 15 October 2005
Alfred Jarry is mostly remembered for his creating the infamous Pere Ubu (translated in this edition as "Papa Turd" for scatological effect)and for his science of imaginary solutions, 'Pataphysics. As 'Pataphysics seeks to disrupt the mechanisms of desire inherent in scientific knowledge, 'Ubu Roi' seeks to disrupt the illusionistic and narrative devices of the theatre (particularly the 'Realist' theatre prevailent at that time in Paris). As Jarry himself writes in his preface, "I have made all the cuts the actors wanted, even cutting several passages indispensible to the meaning and equilibrium of the play".
Based upon the stories that Jarry created with accomplices at school to debunk his blundering science teacher M Herbert, this is Jarry's easliest production; a nascent example of the absurdist humour and irreverant illogic that would shape most of his later writing.
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on 12 March 2015
A truly whacky tale that makes you doubt it was written in the 19th century - if you like the avant garde, you'll love this!
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on 14 September 2016
Nice, affordable copy of an absurdist classic.
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on 20 October 2015
Jarry is a new author to me. Superbly absurd and scarily familiar to one of my own creations. I was until recently unaware of 'Pataphysics' and it was uplifting to discover it for the first time. When I wrote 'Maud' and it's sequel, I thought I was unique in inventing the science of 'Passive Observation', little did I know I had been well and truly trounced many years before. Love this and his other works, a true genius.
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