Free Theatre Christchurch takes inspiration from Alfred Jarry (1873 - 1907) and his inimitable Ubu. Jarry is considered the precursor to and inspiration for significant art movements of the 20th Century including Dada, Surrealism and Futurism. Jarry's most famous invention, Ubu, the central character in a play (Ubu Roi) that he started writing as an adolescent, satirises the complacency of a greedy, hypocritical and powerful bourgeoisie. It was from this that Jarry developed what he called Pataphysics, perspectives that went beyond the metaphysical in search of 'imaginary solutions' - breaking free of aesthetic, cultural and social conventions in search of the new and the previously unconsidered or unknown. Pataphysics influenced a diverse range of philosophers and artists including the Surrealists and Dada artists who considered Jarry their patron saint to the Marx Brothers, artists of the Theatre of the Absurd and Artaud.
In theatre, Jarry's inventive vision helped inspire a movement of 'Free Theatres', which looked to break with convention in search of a theatre that was as relevant (or more so) as the sciences. The Théâtre Libre in Paris and Freie Bühne in Berlin is where amongst others modern theatre was born.
With Ubu as its patron saint, Free Theatre Christchurch continues in this tradition of breaking with conventions in order to create a theatre relevant to the time and place. Never fixed, always seeking out the new and uncharted, Free Theatre productions provide unique experiences of alternative ways of thinking and living.
Free Theatre performed Jarry's play King Ubu in 1982, and decades later a series of regular Ubu Night performances in The Gym in the Arts Centre were inspired by Jarry.
Presentation by George Parker, who performed as Ubu for Free Theatre Ubu Nights, at a PechaKucha evening in The Gym in 2015:
Christchurch through a pataphysical lense
See also our Manifestos and Writings page.
Pataphysics is the science of that which is superinduced upon metaphysics, whether within or beyond the latter’s limitations, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics… Pataphysics will be, above all, the science of the particular, despite the common opinion that the only science is that of the general. Pataphysics will examine the laws governing exceptions, and will explain the universe supplementary to this one;
or, less ambitiously, will describe a universe which can be – and perhaps should be – envisaged in the place of the traditional one…
A pataphysical project will ideally not lead to a result, but to a process of creative exploration... and the theatre is the ideal site for such a project.
Kimberly Jannarone, 'Puppetry and Pataphysics'
Pataphysics is the highest temptation of the mind. The horror of ridicule and necessity lead to an enormous infatuation, the enormous flatulence of Ubu... The pataphysical mind is the nail in the tyre – the world, a puffball.
Jean Baudrillard, 'Pataphysics'