Alfred Jarry's surreal and hilarious satire of power, greed, and bourgeois pretension, the first of his three plays about the comically grotesque character of Pa Ubu.
In King Ubu (Ubu roi, first performed in Paris in 1896), Pa Ubu is a cowardly hanger-on at the court of Good King Wenceslas of Baloney. Nagged by his fearsome wife Ma Ubu, he gathers a band of Barmpots and seizes the throne. But Ubu soon turns into a tyrant, debraining anyone who disagrees with him, murdering all the aristocrats and middle classes and extorting triple taxes from the peasants. When Ma Ubu runs off with a handsome soldier, his downfall suddenly seems inevitable...
The Ubu Plays (King Ubu, Cuckold Ubu and Slave Ubu) caused scandal when they first appeared in Paris in the 1890s, with their surreal and frequently obscene energy, and their broad parodies of Shakespeare. They have since acquired cult status in European drama, and are seen by some as harbingers of modernism.
This English translation by Kenneth McLeish was commissioned by Hilary Norrish for the BBC World Service. The first stage production was at the Gate Theatre, London, in April 1997, directed by John Wright.
It is published in The Ubu Plays, in the Nick Hern Books Drama Classics series.
'Its lunatic grotesquerie is brilliantly caught in McLeish's new translation... Exhilaratingly combines the erudite with the lavatorial... classical parody and surreal farce anticipating avant-garde art as well as the Goons and Monty Python'Guardian
Also by Alfred Jarry: