"It's funny, garbled, f**ked up, stupid, great." - Venue, 5-14 March 2010.
"Better than any theater." - Der Tagesspiegel, October 4 2009. German language text
"Shambolically brilliant." - Village Voice, Richard Gehr.
Long Live Père Ubu! - The Spectacle
"Long Live Père Ubu!" - The Spectacle is the concert version of Pere Ubu's theatrical production, Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi, an adaptation of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. As should be expected from Pere Ubu it is a production without precedent. The boundary between musical and dramatic performance is obliterated. The very notion of what a rock band can and should achieve on stage is turned on its head. David Thomas plays the parts of both Père and Mère Ubu. Members of the band perform the music, choreography, as well as all dramatic roles. The instrumental line-up is augmented with electronica artist Gagarin. As with the full theatrical production, the staging is framed by large screen projections of bespoke animations from legendary film-makers The Brothers Quay.
Venue, Tom Phillips
It's funny, garbled, f**ked up, stupid, great. It's quite brilliant - an unlikely music/theatre adventure that veers from the sublime to the ridiculous via spasming dancers, dropped scenes, temper tantrums, theremin-garnished atmospherics, sock puppets, farting, and spacey animation from the Brothers Quay. Astonishingly, it manages both to put across the gist of Jarry's deliriously satirical 1896 play and feature some of the most joyously rebarbative music that Pere Ubu have made since their "Dub Housing" / "New Picnic Time" rule-shredding heyday... Antidotal evidence that with the appropriate chutzpah and humour you can do something different with the basic gig format without ending up with Peter Gabriel dressed as a flower.
Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin)
The small bassist twitches as if struck by St. Vitus' dance. A chicken with a rubber mask plays synthesizers. A horse collapses under King Ubu. The king roars and rolls around on the ground. In between - crazy music.
Savage wit. So involving was this piece of music theatre that when someone in the audience was taken ill during the performance, everyone thought it was part of the act, "planted" in the stalls to extend the show, even when a paramedic arrived.
Joe Shooman, Record Collector, October 2009.
"Long Live Père Ubu!" is odd and scary... As the narrative unfolds, so do the atmosphere and sonics, thrown into a white-hot crucible of pretentiously brilliant creativity.
Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector
All very anti-theatre and anti-good taste. And what made it all worthwhile? Hearing Thomas in full baritone majesty belching out that one word he was born to deliver: "MERDRE!!!"
Nick Morgan, Whiskyfun
Like pantomime without the ghastly television "celebrities," a sort of Carry On Pataphysics. I've rarely left a theatre feeling quite as entertained.
It's hard not to delight in Thomas' frustrated dictatorship of both Poland and the production itself. Deviating from the plot to demand that the scene fade to black (which it always did, of course, by way of someone running past with a sign reading "Fade To Black"), Thomas displays an enthusiasm for the work that quickly spreads to the audience. When two of the characters exclaimed, "I think we're in danger of alienating the audience!", Queen Elizabeth Hall erupted in laughter. It was hilarious because it couldn't have been further from the truth.
Cheerleader Stooges (Ubu Overture), WUK, Vienna. (Photo: Alexandru Constantin)
Above: David Thomas as Père Ubu and Steve Mehlman as The Peasants.
Right: A dreaming Père Ubu in "The Story So Far."
(Photos: Alexandru Constantin)
Left: Robert Wheeler as The Judges.
Above: Michele Temple as The Polish Army.
Below: Steve Mehlman as Cpt Ordura.
About Pere Ubu
Pere Ubu make a music that is a disorienting mix of midwestern groove rock, "found" sound, analog synthesizers, falling-apart song structures and careening vocals. It is a mix that has mesmerized critics, musicians and fans for decades. The band was formed as a studio project that drew on a body of musicians who were involved in a Cleveland underground music scene that by August 1975 seemed to have run its course. The object of the band was to document the work done and then go away. Within months, however, their first self-produced single ("30 Seconds Over Tokyo" / "Heart Of Darkness") was being snapped up in London, Paris, Manchester, New York and Minneapolis. Pere Ubu was about to change the face of rock music. For over 32 years they've defined the art of cult; refined the voice of the outsider; and influenced the likes of Joy Division, Pixies, Husker Du, Henry Rollins, REM, the Sisters of Mercy, Thomas Dolby, Bauhaus, Julian Cope and countless others.
About The Brothers Quay
The Quay Brothers were born near Philadelphia where they studied at the Philadelphia College of Art, then later in London at the Royal College of Art. Since 1980 they have produced a hybrid variety of puppet animation film work: documentaries on Stravinsky, Janáček, Anamorphosis; interludes for MTV; commercials, as well as films inspired by the writings of Kafka, Bruno Schulz (Street Of Crocodiles) and Robert Walser (Institute Benjamenta). Their work also includes decors and stage designs for the English National Opera, Royal National Theatre, the Royal Danish Ballet, and others.