After a year’s delay and months of rehearsals, last week saw Warre House (JMG) perform its version of Alfred Jarry’s ‘Ubu Roi’ or ‘Ubu the King’. An absurdist modernist play originally penned in French, the play was translated by Dr Gibbons and Mrs Gibbons, who added comedic references to the current political landscape.
Full of bamboozling vocabulary and fast-paced action, the show was a hit with audiences in the Caccia theatre for its three night run. Press Officer Oscar L was cast as ‘Peasant Number 1’, and recounts the exciting week leading up to the show.
A week before the performance, the usual worries kicked in. Would everyone remember their lines? Would we remember our props (including the peasants’ unwieldy garden spade)? Would the costumes fit? As always, the stage crew soothed our concerns as we first started to run the show from beginning to end. Their experience won over even those who hadn’t been on stage since the last house production three years ago. In the days leading up to the show, finishing touches were made to the elaborate costumes which included bald caps and wigs, a two-person pantomime horse, and a full Darth Vader outfit! The show became more slick and the cast grew closer, bouncing off each other’s lines and creating a buzz both on stage and off.
Before we knew it, it was two days before the show, and time for our technical rehearsal. The lighting and sound crews (all comprised of pupils from across the school) had worked tirelessly to programme complicated scenes to fit with the dialogue, made more challenging by the minimalist set design. The lit our different scenes, from caves, to my personal favourite, our peasant abode set to ‘The Archers’ theme song. The dress rehearsal on the day before opening night was chaotic, with a flurry of bankers, noblemen, and various characters wielding lightsabres finding assorted items of clothing and rushing through the makeup room! The protagonist, Ubu the King himself, wore a full bald cap which was painstakingly affixed to his head every night and coated with makeup and sparse clumps of hair. Some of our female characters also had wigs, which looked impressively realistic under the glare of stage lighting.
Everything was heading in the right direction on opening night when, minutes before we were due to start, there was an issue with the sound system and it wasn’t playing the carefully crafted sounds of flatulence and evil laughter. Ever professional, the pupils in charge of the sound department scrambled to fix the problem, while John G, cast as a violin-playing minstrel, entertained the assembled audience with a tune. Soon we were off, with our wonderfully strange show paying homage to every genre and century from feudal Britain to Imperial Russia, and from Shakespeare lines thrown in to jabs at the state of politics today. The audience relished the craziness and as the scenes flew by, you could sense the excitement building in the cast. We ended our first performance on a high with some ‘70s dancing to the Bee Gees. Two more performances remained so we had to pace our excitement but there was the potential for an exciting show week!
Thanks go first and foremost to Mrs Gibbons for directing us and channelling our chaotic energy into such an enjoyable show. Our housemaster JMG and our Dame were supportive and encouraging throughout, even providing a cameo appearance in one scene. The cast would also like to thank the Farrer Theatre Crew and all the beaks and house staff involved in our performance and behind the scenes during an exciting and busy few weeks.