Ubu and the Truth Commission


Program Information

Genre / Country Theatre / SOUTH AFRICA
Dates 3 May at 13:00, 4 May at 14:00
Venue At Shizuoka Arts Theatre (Reserved seat)
Duration 90 minutes
Language In English with Japanese subtitles
Conception and Direction William KENTRIDGE


An outstanding work, which examines apartheid through an absurd play.

This production at Shizuoka Arts Theatre will be the first Japanese staging of any theatrical work by the South African artist and animation creator William KENTRIDGE. Co-produced with South Africa’s famed Handspring Puppet Company, the play combines puppetry, live acting, animation and documentary film footage with lots of humor to fantastically depict some complicated truths about a great negative legacy of the 20th century. Specifically, from 1948-94 the governing National Party in South Africa enforced through legislation a system of racial segregation and separation known as “apartheid” that favored white people over all others, with black Africans at the greatest disadvantage.
The play is about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that began operating after the overthrow of apartheid to elicit verbal evidence from people who were victims of human rights abuses or involved in past wrongdoings. Under certain circumstances, guilty parties who confessed could be excused for their misdeeds.
In the play, those from the old regime who testified at the commission, are fused with the rough and nonsensical title character of French proto-surrealist Alfred JARRY’s sensational 1896 play “Ubu Roi” — a work often cited as a precursor of the theatre of the absurd.


In the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an officer who had oppressed members of a movement campaigning for black people’s rights under the old regime reluctantly takes the witness stand after his wife confesses in public about his destruction of evidence. Though he insists on his innocence, saying “I didn’t know anything,” he is swung around by a microphone wire that seems to fly off when someone speaks lies into it and so he is never able to prove his contention.

Director’s Profile

© Marc SHOUL

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1955, KENTRIDGE took politics at the University of Witwatersrand before moving to Paris in the early 1980s to study mime and theatre at L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. He then returned to Johannesburg, where he acted in TV dramas, film and theater and also worked as a director.
In the late 1980s, he started to create animation footage by shooting 16 rough sketches frame by frame — a film-making technique called “moving drawing” for which he is now famous.
Often reflecting South African social issues and themes from the country’s history, KENTRIDGE’s works soon attracted a strong following and became talking points both inside and far beyond the nation’s borders.
Since 1998, there have been numerous exhibitions of his work in Japan, where he has many zealous fans. Notable among those shows were one at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, in 2009, and a major one-man exhibition the following year at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. In 2010 he also won the prestigious 26th Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy.

Company Profile

Handspring Puppet Company
Since it was founded in Cape Town, South Africa in 1981, Handspring — which is constantly expanding the possibilities of working with puppets on stage — has become one of the country’s leading theatre companies.
Well-known for its collaborations with a wide range of ground-breaking directors and artists, including William KENTRIDGE, the Handspring Puppet Company has staged its works in more than 30 countries.
Company members also created and operated the puppets in the National Theatre’s smash-hit London musical “War Horse,” which was performed at Theatre Orb in Tokyo in 2014. In both cities, just as wherever else the powerful piece was staged, its life-size puppet horses, their exquisite movements and realistic expressions, never failed to astonish all who saw them.


“Puppet Workshop by Handspring Puppet Company”

Presenter: Handspring Puppet Company

4 May
At Shizuoka Arts Theatre

Admission restricted to junior high-school students and older: ¥500
Reservations — restricted to 30 persons
by telephone and in person at the SPAC ticket center. For more information, call 054-202-3399.


◎ Starting 25 minutes before each performance, there will be a pre-performance talk.
◎ 4 May, there is a post-performance talk by the artists.


◎ Due to some parts of expression, not recommended for under 12s.

Cast / Staff

Produced by Handspring Puppet Company
Conceived and directed by: William KENTRIDGE
Written by Jane TAYLOR
Associate director: Janni YOUNGE
Puppet designer: Adrian KOHLER
Assistant puppet maker: Tau QWELANE
Animation: William KENTRIDGE
Assistant animators: Tau QWELANE, Suzie GABLE
Set design: Adrian KOHLER, William KENTRIDGE
Costume design: Adrian KOHLER
Costume makers: Phyllis MIDLANE, Sue STEELE
Lighting design: Wesley FRANCE
Sound design: Wilbert SCHUBEL
Music: Warrick SONY and Brendan JURY
Choreography: Robyn ORLIN
Animation editor: Catherine MEYBURGH
TRC research: Antjie KROG
Film and video research: Gail BERHMANN

Pa Ubu: Dawid MINNAAR
Ma Ubu: Busi ZOKUFA
Puppeteers: Gabriel MARCHAND, Mandiseli MASETI and Mongi MTHOMBENI

Stage manager: Bruce KOCH
Sound technician: Simon MAHONEY
Technical Drector: Wesley FRANCE
Associate producer: Quaternaire www.quaternaire.org
Co-production: Edinburgh International Festival (United Kingdom), The Taipei Arts Festival and Taipei Culture Foundation (Taiwan), Festival de Marseille_danse et arts multiples (France), Onassis Cultural Centre (Greece), Cal Performances Berkeley (USA), BOZAR Brussels (Belgium)

Supported by National Arts Festival, South Africa
Sponsored by Inamori Foundation INAMORI FOUNDATIOM
Under the auspices of Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Japan

SPAC Staff
Stage manager: UCHINO Akiko
Stage: FURUYA Kazumi
Lighting: HIGUCHI Masayuki
Sound: YAMAZAKI Tomomi, SHIMIZU Kei, SAWADA Yukino
Wardrobe: OOKA Mai, TAKAHASHI Kayako
Interpreter: Corey TURPIN
Japanese subtitles (Translation & Operation): KISHIMOTO Kako
Production: YONEYAMA Junichi, YUKIOKA Jun
Volunteer: IKEDA Risa, ENDO Asuka, SUZUKI Rumiko

Technical manager: MURAMATSU Atsushi
Lighting manager: HIGUCHI Masayuki
Sound manager: KATO Hisanao

Supported by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan in the fiscal 2016 the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan in the fiscal 2016

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