Theatre of the Absurd is often challenging, political and hilariously funny, all of which are combined effectively in Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, the Nottingham New Theatre’s latest and final production of the in-house season. Director Chris Trueman, last seen at the NNT at the helm of the ambitious puppet-show, The Adventures of Anne Marie du Bourbon, has a reputation for creating diverse and incredibly entertaining theatre, and Rhinoceros does not disappoint.
The tale follows Berenger, a suspected alcoholic whose friends and colleagues, including the woman he loves, all eventually succumb to ‘rhinoceritis’, turning into rampaging rhinos and causing havoc by destroying staircases and killing cats. As the whole town become ‘monsters’, Berenger is left alone as the only human – forced to choose between following the herd, or remaining an independent human being.
The sound and lighting, the eerie green light and stampeding sound when the rhinos were approaching, were used to great effect and truly created a sense of foreboding for the audience.
The complex set, which was surprising naturalistic, required many scene changes (which admittedly could have been a little smoother), yet was an impressive reminder of the talent of the creative team, who also outdid themselves creating eleven absurdist rhinoceros heads. The sound and lighting, the eerie green light and stampeding sound when the rhinos were approaching, were used to great effect and truly created a sense of foreboding for the audience.
Possibly the funniest, yet most nerve-wracking scenes combined the characters of Berenger and the wonderful Jake Leonard as Jean.
The opening scene, set in a small café, introduced the audience to the protagonist, Berenger, played by Eoin Buckley, in a marked contrast to his previous roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as the doomed Harry in Our Country’s Good, proving his incredible diversity as an actor. Definitely one to watch. Add in a host of other similarly talented supporting actors, all with their own brand of comedy and defined characters, and the audience knew they were in for an excellent show. Stand-outs were the double act of the Café Proprieter (Daniella Finch) and the waiter (Omid Faramazi), whose facial expressions were a joy to behold. The inspired multi-rolling of Faramazi, as the argumentative Botard, provided some of the biggest laughs of the evening. The distraught Lou Knapp, portraying Mrs Bouef, was similarly humorous, her cat’s tragic death and entombment in a pizza-box coffin was a highlight of the production for me. Possibly the funniest, yet most nerve-wracking scenes combined the characters of Berenger and the wonderful Jake Leonard as Jean. Initially appearing as a dapper, serious and sensible English gent, Leonard’s decline into the raving victim of rhinoceritis was an amazing transformation, and hands down the best scene in the play.
This satirical, seemingly nonsensical play at times, was overall a great performance to watch. The cast were strong and wonderfully talented, my only criticism being that at times, because of the nature of the absurdity of the play, the diction could have been clearer, as some of the lines were lost on the audience. As the last play of the in-house season, (and one on the English degree course for those of you wanting to get ahead for third year!), Rhinoceros was everything a NNT production should be, innovative and exciting. Go see it. Follow the herd.
‘Rhinoceros’ is running at New Theatre until Saturday 13th June. For more information see here.