The Grenier de Toulouse presents at the Stopover “Ubu king”. Meeting with Stéphane Batlle and Pierre Matras, directors and performers of this masterpiece of the theater of the absurd.
Why did you choose “Ubu roi” by Alfred Jarry for your end-of-year creation?
Pierre Matras: When we did a first reading, we noticed that “Ubu roi” was a farce, a genre that we have played little, with, in the background, a crazy satire of totalitarianism. At the Grenier de Toulouse, we wanted to treat this serious and topical subject in this form, despots, In laughter and also delirium. Besides, we warn: any resemblance to existing or having existed people is purely coincidental.…or not
Stéphane Batlle: originally “Ubu roi” is the sketch of an angry teenager since Jarry had written this text when he was a high school student and wanted to make fun of an authoritarian teacher he hated. He had then transformed his teacher into a dictator. At the age of twenty, he reworked this text which became the first masterpiece of the theater of the absurd. Considered a precursor to surrealism, the play even launched an expression which has passed into everyday language. Ubuesque, it is at the same time delirious, irrational, dramatic. It’s also something that doesn’t work. Provocative, satirical, parodic, surreal, absurd, funny, this piece is a cornucopia that allows for all kinds of madness.
Who is Ubu?
SB: A tyrant, a despot, a dictator, a cynic, a madman inhabited by the madness of power. Greedy, cowardly, stupid and wicked traitor, he is the embodiment of all vices! Ubu wants to have everything, take everything, steal everything, loot everything, destroy everything. With contempt for others and their lives.
What about the decor?
SB: It shakes up the usual codes, with a construction site aesthetic! On stage, there is a large scaffolding. Ubu puts the world under construction. He constantly wants to rebuild it to his glory… And after him, we have to rebuild.
You direct with Pierre Matras, who also plays Ubu. How do you work in pairs?
SB: Pierre takes care of the scenography, the music of the light, and I take care of the direction of actor, the development of the text, the stakes. How to develop characters.
Precisely what instructions did you give him to interpret Ubu?
SB: For me, Ubu is a child in an adult body. What he wants he takes, without even asking the question of cruelty. He’s also kind of psychopathic. So I asked Pierre to play a crazy clown with gratuitous and cynical wickedness, without qualms.
PM: There is always a jubilation to play the bad guys and there I followed Stéphane’s instructions and it’s the apotheosis! I give it to my heart’s content, because there is also laughter, comedy, madness, quirkiness and even poetry in this joyfully crazy piece. A pure happiness.