UBU AND THE TRUTH COMMISSION
by Handspring Puppet Company, Jane Taylor and William Kentridge.
The Print Room at the Coronet 103 Notting Hill Gate W11 3LB To 7 November 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
TICKETS: 020 3642 6606.
Review: Carole Woddis 19 October.
Something to wonder at.
South Africa’s Handspring Puppets are unmissable. War Horse notwithstanding, their work continues to inspire, in another league from others altogether – though the quality of puppeteering in this country has never been higher. So it’s a coup for Anda Winters’ Print Room to be staging this revival, first produced in South Africa nearly two decades ago.
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a ground-breaker, an attempt – subsequently copied by some though not enough countries – to heal a strife-ridden past by honouring stories from both sides. The original impact of this piece by Handspring with animator William Kentridge based on Alfred Jarry’s anarchic, highly charged political satire, can only be wondered at.
Interestingly, Basil Jones, Handspring co-founder, notes in the Print Room’s programme how performing it earlier this year in Berkeley, California in the wake of the American police shootings, it struck a deeply significant chord.
Here in London, its resonances are also apparent though I suspect seeing it played before a more multi-racial audience might have added another dimension. Context is all. As it is, initially it’s hard not to receive it as a period piece albeit a magnificent one and a morality tale at that.
In terms of theatrical elements, we’ve nothing quite like it here. The puppets again are extraordinary – a three-headed dog-of-war; a ravenous crocodile and most movingly, the faces of the witnesses giving evidence to the Commission. On top of that Kentridge’s drawings add a bleak commentary with a stream of black-and-white animations, ironic and heart-breaking by turn.
Last but by no means least, Ma & Pa Ubu, grossly played and rightly by Dawid Minnaar and Busi Zokufa provide the obscene human quality – arrogant, violent, corrupt, grasping.
Political theatre played as farce, read it as an indictment of how the Commission was used as a tool by those who perpetrated the crimes. And as a latter-day warning how the powerful always seem to escape punishment.
Ma and Pu Ubu sail away towards a new, sun-dashed horizon. But do they? Did they? Corruption and violence continue in South Africa. The powerful continue to go untouched.
Pa Ubu: Dawid Minnaar.
Ma Ubu: Busi Zokufa.
Puppeteers: Gabriel Marchand, Mandiseli Maseti, Mongi Mthombeni.
Director: William Kentridge.
Designers: Adrian Kohler, William Kentridge.
Lighting: Wesley France.
Sound: Wilbert Schubel.
Music: Warren Sony, Brendan Jury.
Costume/Puppet designer: Adrian Kohler.
Animator: William Kentridge.
Animation Editor: Catherine Meyburgh.
Choreographer: Robyn Orlin.
Associate director: Janni Younge.
Assistant animators: Tau Qwelane, Suzie Gable.
Supported by National Arts Festival, South Africa
Organised as part of the South African Season in the UK, a partnership between the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa and the British Council.
First performance of this production of UBU and the Truth Commission at The Print Room at the Coronet, London 15 October 2015.