Ionesco’s most renowned play Rhinoceros, was written in 1959 in response to the resurfacing of fascism in parts of Europe. But more importantly, Ionesco wrote it as an attack on something that troubled him greatly: social conformity.
He had witnessed this strange malady in people regardless of their social class or political beliefs. This play is on one level very simple: The inhabitants of a French town in the 1950’s one by one turn into a rhinoceros until they all become a mindless and savage herd. All of them that is except for the ‘Everyman’ character of Berenger. It is Berenger with whom we identify the most as he drifts through life without purpose, comically passive, bored and self-obsessed. But by the end of the play Berenger, in his success at resisting ‘rhinoceritus’, is the character that has changed the most. He becomes a revolutionary, a tragic figure that urgently calls out to his fellow townspeople to resist the insanity. They sadly no longer have the ears to hear him.
Guest director, Martha Ross co-founder of Theatre Columbus, will examine this intricate dance between comedy and tragedy, beauty and horror, with the accomplished student cast and the assistance of Paul Cegys’ exquisite dream-like set, Colin Labadie’s comically frightening soundscape, Sharon E. Secord’s colourful and splendid costumes and Arun Srinivasan’s masterful lighting.
Rhinoceros speaks to us as much now as it did 50 years ago. We’re currently witnessing around the world an alarming resurgence of neo-nazism. But the play as well speaks to our propensity for denial. Like the characters in Ionesco’s play we are blind to what is glaring right at us. We adapt to anything because it’s easier to conform than to challenge the status q