Can performance create tension and inspiration? 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.
Program Book [PDF]
Théâtre de la Ville Website
Eugène Ionesco was born in 1909 in Romania and spent his formative years in Paris. He was living in Romania at the outbreak of WWII, where he witnessed the spread of Nazi ideology – both watching friends become Nazi sympathizers and seeing the persecution of his Jewish friends under a wave of anti-Semitism.
Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota is a stage director. He was at the head of the Comédie de Reims/CDN [National Drama Centre] from 2002 to 2008. On 1 September 2008, he succeeded Gérard Violette as director of the Théâtre de la Ville. He started in theater at a young age, bringing together several high school friends at the age of 17 to start a drama club at the Lycée Rodin in Paris, which resulted in a staging of Albert Camus’ Caligula. The enterprise was continued at the Sorbonne, where the group got larger. With them he worked on Erdmann, Shakespeare, Kleist, Müller and Pirandello. At the end of his three years of college theatre, he founded his own company, “Théâtre des Millefontaines” when he turned 20. He then began a five-year artistic residence at the the Forum culturel de Blanc-Mesnil and at the Théâtre de la Commune-CDN d’Aubervilliers, where he set up an artistic collective and developed relationships several independent French and European companies.
This artistic ensemble brings together the partners who have accompanied Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota for close to ten years, from the Compagnie Théâtre des Millefontaines adventure, via that of the seven years spent together at the Comédie de Reims (CDN), to the present day, at the Théâtre de la Ville. Together, they feel the constant necessity of devoting time to research, to “laboratories” that enable them to go through the works of an author, and at the same time to reflect on forms of representation and interpretation.
These performances mark Théâtre de la Ville’s UMS debut.