Ubu! at Leeds Playhouse review

Kneehigh theatre is known for its quirky, bizarre kind of productions, so Ubu! was bound to be a little bit out there. And it doesn’t disappoint.

There’s no great plot to the piece. Mr and Mrs Ubu overthrow (read: assassinate) the President and set about to create a community of inharmony and destruction. But, with utter madness and a random magic bear, Ubu eventually falls. To be honest, I really can’t explain what happens in the show better than that and perhaps that makes me not quite Kneehigh’s ideal audience member.

The cast are clearly all incredibly talented performers. Katy Owen as Mr Ubu commands absolute chaos, as does Mike Shepherd as Mrs Ubu. The gender swap really works and adds an extra dimension of calamity. Niall Ashdown almost comperes the piece as Jeremy Ward, breaking the fourth wall brilliantly with the audience. There’s plenty of participation, including sing-along screens, so we’re completely immersed in the action from the start.

I’m a huge fan of the two five-minute breathers replacing a full interval. It allows us to relax without breaking the action of the piece entirely. I wish more plays and musicals would adopt this!

The stars of the piece, for me, are the live house band. Dom Doyote and Delycia Belgrave particularly shine. Both have superb vocal talent and have so much fun in their roles. They have swagger, charisma and charm. For me, they hold the piece together and make it truly entertaining.

Ubu! is not a show I understand, or would want to see again, but it is a show I enjoy. Though this is pretty much entirely down to the occasional bursts of audience karaoke that lift the spirits of an otherwise difficult-to-grasp piece of madcap theatre.

If you’re into something a little wacky, and particularly left-wing, head to Leeds Playhouse until 8th February.

Photography by Steve Tanner

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