WHAT do we need in a time of frightening uncertainty and incomprehensible world events? How about getting together with a few dozen strangers in a tent, joining hands and singing?
Kneehigh’s prescription, Ubu Karaoke, is freely and brilliantly based on Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, first seen in Paris in 1892 when it caused riots and closed the theatre. The company has devised this extraordinary show for performance in its Asylum tent, again erected at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Apparently it has a sea view, but not on 11th August 2018, when the long hot dry spell gave way to torrential rains and thick mist.
Once inside, the pounding rain didn’t affect the enjoyment of a production that comically encapsulated the rise of slightly comical but seemingly innocuous people to power beyond limit – and the dangers of allowing their behaviour to be normalised in our perception.
Directed by Carl Grose and done in typical Kneehigh fashion, we have a zoo, dolphins, bears, assassination, banishment and game shows. And it’s all driven forward by a marvellously versatile band, a creepily calming master of ceremonies (Niall Ashdown) – and of course the songs, chosen by MD Charles Hazlewood “specifically for maximum lung release.”
Diminutive Katy Owen (she was Lily Tregenza in Adolphus Tips) now takes the mantle of Mr Ubu, the vainglorious buffoon who wants to make Lovelyville Great Again. Kneehigh founder Mike Shepherd is Mrs Ubu, and together they arrive in Lovelyville where the naive and distracted president Dallas (Dom Coyote) falls for their sob story and takes them under his wing, until they bump him off and banish his daughter Bobbi (Kyla Goodey), all with the aid of Capt Shittabrique (Robi Luckay).
People power eventually topples the dreadful duo, and Lovelyville returns to peace. Look out for the inspired hashtags on the ticker-tape screens, and go prepared to SING LOUD and for anything else that might be thrown at you (including, of course, rain!)
Ubu Karaoke is on until 25th August. It’s well worth the journey.
And if the sunshine returns, you also have the chance to see members of the Hall for Cornwall Youth Theatre, performing short plays from stories collected on Anna Maria Murphy’s Kneehigh Rambles, one of which, Ginger Pascoe, is pictured left)