Rhinoceros by Ionesco
Pegasus Theatre, 8-11.05.02
Peepolykus Theatre Company

A sleepy provincial town. Friends arguing over morning drinks. Suddenly, a Rhinoceros! Ionesco's absurd and educational play (discover the union stance on dismissal for turning into a Rhinoceros and why Socrates was a cat) is about fascism, and the difficulty tolerant types have opposing it. Cast as easy-going office worker Berenger, John Nicholson is a model of hapless charm, anxiously guarding his humanity. Rhinoceros-dodging their way around the set (sharp-cornered expressionistic angles, constantly menaced by the actor's acrobatics) the rest of the crew quick-change and cavort around him in a familiar world of lazy, drunken Sundays and inefficient, acrimonious offices. The astounding Flick Ferdinando is equally at home copping gropes as a cheeky fireman or lamenting her poor squashed pussy (cat), while Javier Marzan and David Benson swop insults and hypotheses with easy charm.
Meanwhile, the townsfolk are turning into Rhinoceroses. Is it simply a matter of personal preference? Or something more sinister? David Sant, as Berenger's companion Jean, lets us see the process close up, feel the shiver of horror as a friend's voice turns into the unintelligible grunting of an animal. His final, spectacular dissolution into Rhinocerism is an orgy of facial contortion, snorting, and licking the stage, ending with a vast explosion of bathroom debris and the intrusion of an improbably huge horn.
As the the town approaches rhinocerotic meltdown, and the first of the grey-suited, horned monsters appear, Phoebe Soterlades makes a fabulously offhand Daisy, charting the spread of Rhinocerism through the pages of OK Magazine, veering through the clichés of romantic fiction to her grim conclusion; it's the world that's right, not you and me. In the end, Rhinoceros is a play as uneasy as it is absurd, and Peepolykus succeed, with perfect detail and impeccable timing, in delivering both the humour and the horror.

Jeremy Dennis, 09.05.02