Rhinoceros | Burton Taylor Studio, 2-6 February 2010
Rhinoceros is a very odd play, which is not surprising for something in the Absurdist genre. Its premise is simple: in a town in France one day people start turning into Rhinoceroses. The play follows a group of friends and colleagues, and their fate in the midst of the rhinocerotic epidemic.
The Burton Taylor's two-plays-a-night set up may seem an obstacle to the theatre companies, forcing them to go easy on the props and scenery. But in general it works out very well - lack of props means more invention, more focus on the actual words and movements of the play, an altogether more sophisticated result.
The rhinos were great. It's a key thing to get right and we had no gimmicks, no paper horns, just good honest acting. As different characters transformed we got subtle hints, grunting, hoarseness and a wild look in the eyes. It was effective and I guess a lot of rehearsal time had gone on rhinocerising.
The cast was small and kept things together and well-paced. David Ralf differentiated his two parts well; he's obviously a good character actor. Nathan Letore injected a light, fresh note. He was very watchable and the antithesis of overacting, and his scene with Berenger and Daisy was neatly done.
Arabella Lawson, as Jean and Mr Pappillon, had a hard task: to act annoyed for pretty much the entirety of the production. That she remained interesting to watch deserves some sort of medal, and her transformation to pachyderm was great fun.
Undoubtedly there's a moral somewhere at the heart of this play. We weren't entirely sure what it was. But we did enjoy the craziness. I think any hesitancies will be ironed out as the week progresses, and even with them we had a very engaging evening.