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When farce becomes horror 68

Posted on December 20, 2022 by

One of the most memorable lectures I had as an undergraduate student at university was on Eugene Ionesco’s play “Rhinoceros”, a defining work of the Theatre Of The Absurd genre. It is both a timeless and timely text, on a par with 1984 or The Crucible.

During the opening scene, the everyman protagonist Berenger sits having coffee with a friend. Midway through their conversation, a rhino charges past the café. Berenger is startled and concerned but his friend seems unperturbed, in denial that they even saw a rhinoceros.

Throughout the rest of the play, Berenger watches in incredulity and terror as, one by one, every person around him, colleagues and friends, transform into rhinoceroses, the cause seemingly being part-infection, part-capitulation.

In the final scene, he stands at his window looking out over the carnage, and in a moment of desperation, tries to force himself to transform into a rhinoceros. Despite his efforts, he is unable to and upon regaining his senses, vows in a hopeless frenzy that he will never capitulate.

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