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Robert Tanitch reviews Eugène Ionesco’s The Lesson at the Southwark Playhouse, London.

Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994), the Franco-Romanian playwright, initially rejected by critics and little attended by the public, became one of the leading playwrights of the French avant-garde in the 1950s. His plays have been performed around the world, attracting big names.

The lessona Theater of the Absurd classic, it premiered in Paris in 1951 and has not had a major revival in Britain since the young Prunella Scales performed it in 1957. I last saw the piece at the Royal Opera House in a dance theater adaptation by Danish choreographer Flemming Flindt.

A math and philology professor in his 50s gets so carried away by his own words that he abuses, rapes and kills an 18-year-old student.

The girl can’t subtract numbers, but she can multiply them and suddenly multiplies the most fantastic sum in her head and explains to the amazed professor that she has memorized all the answers.

Hazel Caulfield plays the girl with a bright, innocent girly smile. Jerome Ngonadi is cast as a serial killer who is psychologically manipulating her.

Ionesco’s one-act play, a surreal satire on power and knowledge, ends with an overtly political statement. The professor’s maid and accomplice gives a Nazi armband to the professor she controls. The maid is played by Julie Stark.

Directed by Max Lewendel, founder of the Icarus Theater Company. The production is never hilarious or sexually appalling enough.

Icarus strives to make their work accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. It’s a worthy goal; but in this particular case there is way too much creative subtitling technology out there. It overwhelms the play. The constant opening and closing of closet doors is distracting. There is so much writing on the boards, the words flashing up and down, that the dialogue is difficult to read.

After its run in London, Icarus will go on tour The lesson, visiting 40 venues in the UK. Further information follows this link.

To learn more about Robert Tanitch and his reviews, click here to go to his website Robert Tanitch logo



Robert Tanitch reviews Eugène Ionesco’s The Lesson at the Southwark Playhouse, London.

Source link Robert Tanitch reviews Eugène Ionesco’s The Lesson at the Southwark Playhouse, London.

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