Every festival I’m waiting for that show. The first one that amazes me and leaves a cheesy smile on my face for hours after the curtains close. Sometimes it happens early, in 2015 it was Mark Steel on Day 3 and sometimes it takes a little longer, last year it was Daniel Kitson’s Mouse around two weeks into the Fringe. It could come from any genre, in the past it’s varied from Hannibal Buress to Kafka and Son (also on this year). Sometimes it’s followed up by loads of other shows that evoke the same feeling and some years it stands alone. In 2017 that show is Rhinoceros.
Eugene Ionesca’s 1959 play, newly adapted by Zinnie Harris, begins with a hilarious slap stick scene involving flying chairs, townspeople who just don’t seem to get along and several arguments, chief among them a debate about the heritage of the two Rhinos that have just charged through the town, causing destruction and upset along their way.
Our drink sodden hero Berenger is late for his office job again and in the heat of more debate it’s revealed that the Rhinoceroses haven’t just appeared out the blue, but that it’s residents of the town that are turning into them and there are more people turning all the time.
The staging is simple but thoughtful, with several spaces being created just through the shifting of stages. From a town square to a large tower block, it’s amazing what they’ve achieved. The music and sound effects all come from one person sat off to the side of the stage, and they alone achieve more than entire orchestras do in other productions.
As characters who begin as logical, stubborn and steadfast begin to transform we witness the parallels with the western world today. As more and more people adopt the ridiculous position (racism in today’s world) the more the sane people start to feel alone and isolated. We shouldn’t start trying to rationalise the views of the insane, or even discuss them with understanding, they are there to be ridiculed.
The performances are powerful, the writing impactful and the story understandably a modern classic. This is why it’s earned it’s place as “that show” for 2017.
If you didn’t get the chance to catch Rhinoceros at the International Festival the Lyceum are bringing it back in March 2018.