KING UBU – Mona Foma 2020

So a narcicist King who thinks too much of himself invades a country, dividing everyone and turns the world absurd. This story repeats itself almost daily in or never-too-quick-to-learn world. King Ubu is an adaption of Ubu Roi, the original French production by Alfred Jarry. The original production bears the same hallmarks of the premier of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in that there were boos, heckles, people leaving and the (gee I hope they really did do this) throwing of fruit. (Why did people always seem to have fruit on them back then?). It was a brave beginning and the theatre of the absurd was born.

Re staging of Ubu has happened many times in its absurdist vein and the political volatility of its story has never been out of date. And so, under the want of MOFO’s curator Brian Ritchie, we did it again. In this production, the central characters are 9 foot high puppets, the good guy is played by multiple actors, and no one on stage speaks because they are voiced by actors 6 feet above them on scaffold, a cheer squad, dancers, a brass band, ludicrous puppet violence and the audience watched from a swimming pool.

I was approached to write the songs. There are scant details about original score from the late 1800s, so I took cues from the amazing new adaption of the script by writer Willow Weiland. There are 6 songs in all that were often sung by the whole company of 60 people. The music underscore we developed as a band of Taiko Drums, Harp, Saxes, Bass, Banjo, Harpsichord, brass band, choir, kazoo, surf guitar, toy piano and absurd percussion. Members were Brian Ritchie, Spile Mason, Yyan Ng, Emily Sanzaro and myself with help from the Launceston RSL Brass band. We played it 3 nights for free.

In short, it was awesome!

The Juliet Letters

In 2009, for a Masters degree recital, I played the song cycle released in 1992, The Juliet Letters. I needed a new sound and a new way of playing, singing and performing music. In the string quartet I found a new home. The ensembles I wrote for quickly got bigger, but the small chamber ensemble was my weapon for several years to come.

When we next played it for the inaugural MOFO festival. The queue around the block had more people in it than were already seated in the theatre

Then in 2015, with my good friend Daniel Lopez at the helm on 1st Violin, I played The Juliet Letters again in QLD. I couldn’t have been happier playing this outstanding song cycle written by Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet.

I have performed it a few times since; Festival of Voices in Hobart 2016, then again this week at Government House, Hobart. It is a work that I believe I will revisit many more times in my life for the simple reason that it is magnificent. Its writing, its intellect, its passion, its honesty, its complexity and above all, its pure ensemble chemistry. I hope you get to hear it one day.