Minotaur Theatre Company’s Rhinoceros – review

The Minotaur Theatre Company performed the opening show of their latest production, Rhinoceros on Friday night. Eugène Ionesco’s French play was written in 1959, but translated into English by Martin Crimp for the Royal Court in 2007. Minotaur’s cast captured the original setting of the play well, employing French accents and songs, and offering a delicate and witty mix of French and English.

Rhinoceros - Jerusha Green (3)Photo: Jerusha Green.

Directors Poppy Pedder and Sophie Greenham explain that Rhinoceros is “not only fantastically witty, [but] it also questions issues of morality, philosophy, love and what it means to be a human being”. Indeed, Ionesco’s play is comical in parts, but with heavy dialogue and philosophical demands, it is somewhat inaccessible to the less introspective in the audience.

The narrative traces Bérenger’s (James Ferguson) anxiety to conform to the standards expected of him, a task which becomes increasingly difficult as the characters surrounding him transform into rhinoceroses one by one. Both Lewis Garvey and Beej Harris perform their transformations from man to rhino with considerable skill and hilarity. Lewis Garvey’s alteration is cleverly accomplished through the use of paint, but his frequent exits and entrances are a little distracting and overdone.

The costumes and the set were simple yet tasteful, and with few changes, the more stylistic moments were executed with greater contrast. At points, Bérenger is confronted with his fears when the lights turn red and the cast surround him wielding green and metallic rhinoceros heads. These moments were performed well, providing a welcome distraction from the less visual parts of the play.

Rhinoceros - Jerusha Green (1)Photo: Jerusha Green

Again, the musical parts were modest, but all the more refreshing for their simplicity and infrequency. Gabriel Jones and Jess Clough played the guitar and violin beautifully, setting a melancholic tone at the performance’s opening. However, the theatre was often filled with the sound of rhinoceroses running and charging, and although this was necessary to the narrative, they were often too loud.

Beej Harris gave an excellent performance in both of his roles. With excellent comic timing and a laid-back performance, Harris’s relaxed stage presence was well received in comparison to exaggerated performances present elsewhere in the play.

Perhaps not the strongest of Minotaur productions, primarily because of the play choice, but the evening was enjoyable nonetheless. Engaging with themes of conformity and morality, the cast did well to achieve the humorous elements of Rhinoceros alongside the more thought-provoking.

Rhinoceros is showing until Saturday 2 March (7:30pm, UEA Drama Studio). Tickets are available here.


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August 2022
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