Ubu and the Truth Commission

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Ubu and the Truth Commission is a play by Jane Taylor, William Kentridge and the Handspring Puppet Company.

Original text

Based on Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, it compared Jarry's King Ubu with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, utilizing texts from the TRC hearings in documentary fashion, as well as puppets and animated graphics by Kentridge. The text was finalized by Jane Taylor and the production directed by William Kentridge.

Two story lines were presented through two different media; the fictitious story of Pa Ubu, the outrageously violent megalomaniac and his wife Ma Ubu were played by live actors, while the true-life stories of individuals testifying at the TRC were presented through puppets. Both TRC-related productions, The Story I am about to Tell and Ubu and the Truth Commission told the actual stories of real victims who had recently testified before the TRC, but in neither production were those victims portrayed by actors playing the parts. As if the pain and suffering of those victims were too real and too immediate at that time to be presented by performers, the former production used the real victims on stage and the latter used puppets.

Performance history in South Africa

1997: It opened in South Africa at the Grahamstown Festival (11 July) and the Market Theatre in 1997, presented by the Handspring Puppet Company and directed by William Kentridge in association with Mannie Manim Productions, featuring Dawid Minnaar as Pa Ubu and Busi Zokufa as Ma Ubu, Louis Seboko, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones.

1998: Production presented in Stellenbosch at the Spier Amphitheatre, Spier Summer Arts Festival (13 Jan 1998).

Performance history abroad

1997: Premiered at the Kunstfest Weimar on 17 June.

Translations and adaptations


Grahamstown Festival programme, 1997

Ruphin Coudyzer. 2023. Annotated list of his photographs of Market Theatre productions. (Provided by Coudyzer)

[Van Heerden (2008)][1] pp 102-104.

Davis, Geoffrey V. 2003. pp. 333-343.

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