The Actors' Gang presents Ubu the King

Oct 5, 2022
Ubu the King by The Actor's Gang at The Ivy Substation

In 1896, the bohemian, absinthe-drinking, rebellious writer Alfred Jarry debuted his revolutionary play Ubu the King with a single performance in Paris. The absurd satire shocked audiences, resulting in repeated interruptions throughout the performance and culminating in a riot. This violent reception cemented Alfred Jarry's legacy as a provocative and controversial author.

Eighty-six years later, in 1982, a ragtag bunch of punk rock actors performed a midnight production of the same surreal, scatological masterpiece at a theater tucked away on a grimy stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. It was a huge hit, and the rest is Actors' Gang history.

Now in 2022, for ten performances only October 14 to November 19, The Actors' Gang celebrates its 40thanniversary by presenting a revival of this obscenely funny, deeply offensive, and utterly deranged play. Tickets are available at, and by phone at 310-838-4264.

But this isn't some dusty nostalgia piece. Artistic Director Tim Robbins is directing a lively company of actors-most of whom weren't even born when the Gang first produced Ubu-to reawaken the anarchic spirit that makes chaotic and rough-around-the-edges live theater so captivating. The translation is by Cyril Connolly and Simon Watson Taylor.

"I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our 40th than to return to the play that started it all for The Actors' Gang, said Robbins. "Considering the scatological nature of our public discourse and the absurdity of life in general in these post-pandemic times, I felt that a return to rude, punk rock theater made a lot of sense. I am not sure of the moral, social or artistic implications of doing Ubu the King at this time, but we are having a hell of a lot of fun."

Ubu the King, Alfred Jarry's rude, scatological 1896 masterpiece deeply influenced early 20th Century artists and gave rise to dadaism, absurdism, and expressionism. And now, Ubu the King is the perfect story for these insane times. A hundred years have not dulled the humor in government deception, failed coup d'etats, weird sexual proclivities, loud farts, de-brainings, and other pathological peculiarities embodied by this play. At start, Ubu, the Ex-King of Aragon, is convinced by his wife, Ma Ubu, to assassinate the King of Poland and usurp the throne.

Killing Wenceslaus and his entire family are not enough for old Ubu, his greed and insatiable appetite lead him into a spiraling series of events that result in murder, war, and ultimately the restoration of the King's son, Boggerlas, to the throne of Poland. Meanwhile, Ubu and his conspirators sail off to safety at the end of the play facing no consequences for their reign of terror.