Rhinoceros – Woe betide the last man standing
To say that 5Pound Theatre’s Rhinoceros merely breaks the fourth-wall would be an understatement. This Rhinoceros rounds up the audience and herds them, sheep-like, towards Ionesco’s increasingly claustrophobic though ultimately triumphant ending.
Whilst there is a stage, much of the action takes place amongst the audience, who are free to sit themselves at any of the scattered tables, chairs, and couches arranged in the space in a cabaret style set-up. This creates a sense of immediacy and heightened connection to our every-man Berenger (David John Watton) as he becomes more and more marginalised by the pachyderm masses.
And mass they do, as one by one the townspeople succumb to the call of the wild and turn into grunting, stampeding gas-masked animals. The transformation of Jean (Jason Cavanaugh) from respectable citizen into mindless creature is particularly well done and believable. His transformation, as indeed all of the transformations, could potentially be a difficult part of staging making them more impressive given this fact. The modernisation of the play is well-done, too, and not ham-fisted at all; the rhinoceroses all use Apple products – iPhones and MacBooks – as a nice little nod to conformity in a contemporary setting.
The acrobatic work incorporated into the rhinoceroses’ performance is also quite enjoyable. The space of the Queen’s Theatre One is utilised well for the acrobatic work, with the exposed beams of the Victorian structure having ropes tied to them for the ropework portions.
If you are overwhelmed by loud noises and the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by both the sound effects and the performance itself, then you should be warned that it can be an intense sensory experience.
By Kate Eldred