Following its successful run during the Festival, the chaotic and comedic Scottish/Turkish interpretation of Ionesco’s absurdist play is back on the Lyceum’s stage. Ros Mackenzie sees it a second time – and is still as enamoured…

In 1959, when first produced, the underlying satire debunked fascism, philosophical jargon, and altered social attitudes in France and Romania, all observed and experienced by Ionesco himself. This version, reworked by Zinnie Harris, leaves us in no doubt about today’s targets – Turkey, Europe, anywhere, where creeping populism clamours and shuts out rational thought.

It’s an enjoyable production – witty, laughable, seemingly light. What are those crazy animals stampeding about town? Surely nothing to do with the good burghers enjoying some local banter, flawed logical discussions, and petty arguments. Wrong – these animals are us, coarsened, altered, brutalised, swept along by the tide of the moment, the force that is sweeping the land.

There is much discussion about two types of rhinoceros – European and Afro/Asian. No-one can really identify which is which, but everyone knows the immigrant variety is inferior. Truly a mirror of our society.

The haunting music of Oguz Kaplangi, composer and sound designer, gives this drama Turkish roots, the alluded setting is rural France, and tartan suits worn in the office scene bring us firmly back home. Surely Papillon (Myra McFadyen) looks like Hitler? And doesn’t John Cobb as an old gentleman remind us of Albert Einstein?

Everyman is truly everywhere – this is the human condition in absurdist terms. Strong performances by Robert Jack as main protagonist, Berenger, and Steven McNicoll as his man about town friend, Jean, firmly ground this far-fetched tale, while Ece Dizdar is the rational thinking female lead. I loved the cat, an engaging minor role indeed.

A minimalist white stage setting provides the tabula rasa on which the changing moods of light and action unfold. The only stage furniture are white tables and light white chairs, at first in orderly arrangement as befits a French café setting or an office, then piled high as Berenger from his elevated habitat surveys the wildness beneath. Finally, all is floating and untethered, order lost, humanity upended.

There is no question that the Lyceum company has teamed up with avant-garde Turkish theatre company DOT for a likeable, successful and relevant production of Ionesco’s absurdist drama. This time, the performance was very well received by a mainly young, enthusiastic audience. Three curtain calls means approval!


Royal Lyceum Theatre.



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