Review: The Lesson, Hope Theatre

You ignore what Ionesco has to teach us in The Lesson at your peril – the Hope Theatre is onto another winner here with a strong in-house production

“Don’t you understand that I’m simply trying to help you”

Eugène Ionesco’s La Leçon is the French equivalent of The Mousetrap – it’s been running at the Théâtre de la Huchette in Paris since February 1957. British theatres have been a little less enthusiastic about the French-Romanian playwright over the years but following the NT’s Exit the King, Matthew Parker’s Hope Theatre is also redressing that with this English-language production of The Lesson

And though Ionesco is known as an absurdist, there’s something directly compelling and disturbing here. Sheetal Kapoor’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Pupil turns up for instruction with Roger Alborough’s Professor but her precocious confidence soon takes a battering as lessons in arithmetic and philology dissolve into abstracted nonsense and he gets increasingly angry at her inability to keep up.  Continue reading “Review: The Lesson, Hope Theatre”

Review: Exit the King, National Theatre

Undeniably challenging but ultimately thought-provoking and impeccably designed, Exit the King plays at the National Theatre this summer

“You are going to die at the end of the play”

There’s something intriguing about the fact that Eugène Ionesco has never been programmed at the National Theatre before, perhaps a long-present euroscepticism guarding against a writer at the vanguard of the French avant garde scene (give how much Beckett gets staged, it’s clearly not anti-absurdism). But Rufus Norris has looked to rectify this by commissioning a new version of Le Roi se meurt from Patrick Marber, who also directs here.

And as an absurdist drama, Exit the King suggests a bit of different thinking. On the face of it, it’s a simple enough tale – a man is told he only has a day left to live and struggles to deal with it. But that man is a king – King Bérenger – and he’s over 400 years old. And his kingdom is dying around him, with him, stone walls cracking and crumbling away, its people disappearing into the ether, the darkness swallowing everything up whole.   Continue reading “Review: Exit the King, National Theatre”

Review: Amédée, Birmingham Rep

“Looks like the show is over”

It’s always a bit of risk, booking a show you don’t know to see a particular actor and I have to say I got my fingers burnt here with Amédée. In the glorious Jumpers for Goalposts, Jamie Samuel (along with Philip Duguid-McQuillan) both stole and broke my heart, and he further pummelled it in 2015 in Plastic Figurines, to affirm his status as one of those actors I’d happily travel to see.

So the notion of popping up to Birmingham Rep’s studio theatre was fine, combining it as I did with a trip to Stratford, but I should have paid more attention to what I was actually booking. For Eugène Ionesco’s Amédée falls into that category of ‘rarely performed’ works and the man adapting it here, Sean Foley, is someone with whom I decidedly share no funny bones at all (cf The Painkiller).  Continue reading “Review: Amédée, Birmingham Rep”