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L.A. Beat

U of L's Ubu Roi satirizes politics

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The University of Lethbridge opens their drama season with a nineteenth century French play “Ubu Roi,” running Oct. 3-7 in University Theatre.

Shea Heatherington and Corey Ariss rehearse a scene from Ubu Roi. Photo by Richard Amery
“It’s about a narcisstic woman who convinces her husband to overthrow the king of Poland so he can be the sole ruler and he ends up being a terrible leader,” said director Jay Whitehead.

 “Ubu Roi”was written by Alfred Jarry in 1896 and translated into English by Barbara Wright.
Père Ubu was a mediocre and unqualified leader, doing and saying what it took to keep power in his greedy hands. The play, which takes place in Poland, or nowhere, deals with the cruelty of oppressors and the stupidity of the human condition. Sometimes described as an absurdist parody of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Ubu Roi has been called one of the most excessive political satires of all theatre history. The play ranks among the most original and powerful burlesques of all time.

There are 18 students involved in the production.
“It’s a very physical play. We’ve stripped everything down to the  bare essentials. There’s bare minimum stage and minimal lighting. it’s a very immersive experience, Whitehead continued, noting  while the subject matter is unsettling relevant to events happening today, it is very funny.

“It’s a very funny play. It’s very absurdist. When it premiered in the 1800s, it created a stir and caused a riot on opening night,” he continued.

“ “It’s very satirical and  critical of political leaders. One of the reasons I wanted to do it is  because of it’s relevance to events today. We live in a time when we have leaders who are arguably unqualified to do the job and make poor decisions,” he continued.
“ But I love this play because it is fun. Sometimes the plays we do are more serious in nature,” Whitehead continued.

“ We’re going to strange places. We’ve let the actors create their characters  just by their stage presence and bodies and faces,” he said.
Shea Heatherington has enjoyed that aspect of the production as Mama Turd.

Shea Heatherington and Corey Ariss rehearse a scene from Ubu Roi. Photo by Richard Amery“She wants Papa to rule Poland, but she’s doing it in a Lady MacBeth kind of way,” she said.
“ I want to do it behind the scenes so she can have the power,” she added.

“He’s a narcissist and a leaking garbage pail of a character. He’d love to rule Poland, but my wife has to suggest to me how to do it,” said Corey Ariss of his character Papa Turd. Ariss is enjoying  the experience of the play.

“It’s been wonderful to have all of the freedom Jay has given us to create our characters,” Ariss continued.

“It’s been a really fun experience,” he continued.

 Heatherington noted she is excited about performing the play in front of an audience.
“ I’m excited to see how the audience will react,” she said.
“I hope people will experience a really strong reaction to it,” Ariss added.
“It has always evoked a strong reaction from people,” Heatherington said.
The play runs at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $18 regular, $13 seniors,  and  alumni and $12 for students.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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