Eugène Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros is currently being staged by heartBeast Theatre, the Brisbane company choosing a fittingly absurd play to perform for an increasingly absurd world.
The play follows Bérenger, the local alcoholic of small French town, who is at first perplexed and then concerned as townspeople around him begin to turn into rhinoceroses. As he tries to talk sense into one friend and then another, he becomes increasingly anguished as he witnesses more and more of his compatriots growing horns and joining the rhinoceros’ cause.
In this production, Brian Bolton plays the bumbling everyman character with a great deal of charm. In the comical first act, he and Patrick Farrelly, playing the role of Jean, work superbly together to bring Ionesco’s wit to life, drawing well deserved chuckles from the audience.
As the play draws on and the content becomes darker, Bolton does well to hold the audience’s attention through long and complex scenes. While some sections might benefit from an increase in pace over the season, on the whole the production flows well, and the audience shift with Bérenger from being amused by the first rhinoceros to being concerned about where this tale will end.
Once again, heartBeast have made a home for their production in the old Spring Hill Reservoir. Opening on a particularly wet Brisbane weekend, the play comes alive on a night when rain belts down on the tin roof that covers the bricked in space. The actors have a knowing smirk as they deliver lines about just how dry and arid the town is, while the audience settles in to the underground chill seeping through the walls.
Director Steve Pearton has made excellent use of the unusual performance space, with a small square stage placed in the middle of arched brick walls, and audience seated on three sides. As characters continue to turn into rhinoceroses, they lurk in the shadows behind the audience, pacing, stamping and whining, creating a sense of being surrounded not just for Bérenger, but for the audience as well.
As absurd and humorous as it is, the play also serves as a cautionary tale for worlds in which it becomes the norm to siphon off slivers of humanity in order to reach the goals of individuals or regimes. It’s an excellent pick for a today’s world of Trump presidencies and Kim threats of nuclear war.
Playing for another two weeks, a ticket to Rhinoceros is recommended for Brisbane audiences who like their comedy absurd and their theatre thought-provoking.
heartBeast Theatre presents
by Eugène Ionesco
Director Steve Pearton
Venue: Spring Hill Reservoir | 230 Wickham Tce, Spring Hill
Dates: 13 – 28 Oct 2017
Tickets: $33 – $27