Ubulution! A re-imagining of protest and the public sphere in contemporary theatre
From 1994, South Africa was democratised, and the era of post-apartheid dawned. The political wrangling that ensued during apartheid has been personified through theatre. Yet in contemporary times, theatre is still employed as a vehicle to marshal public opinion as a political force, however the extent to which it is used may extend to elements of agitation and propaganda. This chapter speaks to one such original theatre production: Ubulution that is a continuation and recurrence of the Ubu tales as started by Alfred Jarry and referenced in such influential South African theatre pieces as Ubu and the Truth Commission by Jane Taylor. The narrative captures the tale of Pa Ubu, the manic man in charge who is hoping to gain ultimate capitalistic power. Ubulution holds true to the thematic tradition of its predecessors by effectively exposing the dystopia through depicting the spiritual, social, and political problems in modern society. In this reimagined South Africa version, the social sphere theory comes into sharp focus and the idea of protest is (re)considered. Through a thematic analysis of the text of Ubulution, political undertones in the text are identified with the aim of linking them to the public opinions that coincided with post-apartheid protest actions across the country. Thereby this chapter looks at Ubulution as contemporary protest commentary on the public sphere. Through a Marxist lens it further aims to consider how protest theatre may be conceived as a vehicle for harnessing public opinion as a political force in South Africa's socio-political climate.