It is rare that I find myself utterly wanting for words to express my feelings on anything, but Ubu Roi happens to have done just that. Usually, when I go to write a review, I consider the production within the context of all the theatre I have seen in my life. I set it within a certain paradigm, consider what effect it seems to have been aiming for, and try to assess it by the goals which it has set out for itself. This play is so utterly bizarre, so determined not to be analysed by conventional standards, that it is difficult to know by which standards to judge it.
Following their Brexit-based show last year, this semester St Andrews’ devising troupe, BlackBox, took a break from politics to explore Scottish folklore. To the Ocean tells the story of a young girl, Grace, whose mother Shonagh leaves when she is eight years old. Unable to tell her the truth, her father convinces her that Shonagh is a Selkie (a seal that can take off its skin and live on land as a human) who saved his life when his boat was caught in a storm but was then unable to come back to land. The majority of the play follows fifteen-year-old Grace and her friend Ana as they leave their small seaside town and follow the clues in a newspaper article to find Shonagh in the big city.
Jumpers for Goalposts by Tom Wells, charts the progress of a five aside team in an LGBT+ amateur football league. Each scene in the play takes place in the changing room after their games, charting their generally disastrous performances on the field along with their personal developments. While primarily a comedy, there are moments of significant pathos as the play discusses the physical assault of one character over his sexuality and portrays another living with HIV.
I had very little idea what to expect from Director Hannah Ritchie’s all-female production of King Lear. It represents her first directing project in St Andrews, and features a cast of proven talent and some new faces. The play is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s finest, but it is also notoriously difficult to stage. It’s very long (uncut it can run as long as four hours), deals with incredibly complex themes, and the role of Lear itself is a challenge even to veteran Shakespearean actors, often seen as the Everest of theatre. With these factors in mind, I was curious to see how well a group of young women could pull this off.