Saturday night I found myself with Fliss at Rhinoceros at the Royal Court. I figured any play where pachyderms spontaneously appear and start running around the stage is my kind of show. Besides, I had studied it in high school so I knew it already. Fliss on the other hand declined to investigate further then knowing it was one of those weird-ass plays that Paul drags her to from time to time, but since it was my birthday she was bound to put up with it.
Our evening started out as a comedy of manners as Fliss thought my paté starter for dinner looked like dog food (it did). Well that's those Sloan Square bistros for you. But during the second act the evening had taken its absurdist tone, as she leaned over to me and whispered, "You didn't tell me there was going to be full-frontal nudity in this". Well I didn't know that was going to be the case either. She declined to answer whether it was the first time she had seen a middle-aged white man naked before (it was the first time I had ever paid money to see that) but whatever the case was, we had very good seats to observe it all.
Still nudity aside, there was so much to like about this new production. Ionesco's satire on mindlessness, conformity and banality was written as a response to the rise of fascism in Europe. But it could apply to many things these days. The Rhinoceros could be anything that refers to pack mentality, such as the way the West End theatre critics review things I suppose.
This new translation by Martin Crimp gives a new lease of life to this play as well and sounds a lot more like dialogue too... Actually the banal office banter was all too familiar for Fliss and I, although we often talked more about sex than socialism. I guess Ionesco didn't have as filthy a mind as we did. Or he had more important things to say.
The Royal Court itself was a great venue for the production as the distant rumbles from the tube trains passing could easily have been mistaken for galloping rhinos. The full-sized rhino that bursts through the wall before intermission was also a highlight that had the audience breaking out into applause. Of course the down side to all these walls being broken and stairwells collapsing and buildings falling apart was that there was a thin layer of chalky dust on everything... Those rhinos by the end of it all sure looked like they meant business. And with all that dust its best advised to avoid wearing black to the Royal Court for the next month or so.... Press night is this week and it runs through to November.