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A farce. A tragedy. An experiment of the mind. Rhinocéros was initially a short story written in 1957 by Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994), who was influenced by his time in Romania as a young man when nearly everyone around him converted to fascism. Alongside Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Harold Pinter, Ionesco was a major figure of the “Theater of the Absurd.”
Rhinocéros begins in a small town square where Jean meets his apathetic friend Berenger for a drink. A rhinoceros runs through the square, shocking all except Berenger. The square is soon overrun as people in the town begin to transform into rhinos. Berenger, on the other hand, transforms from being indifferent and aimless to a having something to believe in and fight against: the tyranny of the rhinos. A parable about French collaboration with the Nazis, Rhinocéros serves as a metaphor for people resisting the crowd and standing up for their own ideas.
The Théâtre de la Ville production of Rhinocéros has been hailed for its illuminating and insightful approach to Ionesco’s celebrated play, skillfully setting astonishing moments of physical theater and movement in a staging that showcases both the haunting beauty of Ionesco’s words and his singular vision for the stage. Remaining true to the spirit and letter of the play, the production rekindles the staggering sense of urgency and risk conveyed by the script, as it depicts the struggle of one man to maintain his individual identity and integrity in a world where others have successively yielded to the inevitable domination of brute force. When the play was first presented in Paris, critics were ecstatic. “A masterpiece,” raved Le Monde. “A veritable tour de force on the part of the director… [and] a magical embrace between the show and the spectator.”
Experimental, emotional, and emphatic – this performance is not to be missed.
Performed in French with English supertitles.