ABOUT THE PLAY:
Watch out, there’s a rhinoceros!
In a small provincial town a hitherto unknown epidemic is decimating the population, turning the unfortunately infected into – rhinoceroses. So absurd a situation unambiguously reveals itself to be a metaphor about conformism and relativism which, erasing the lines between good and evil, generate fertile ground for the totalitarianisms of all sorts, that is to say any kind or form of government which seeks to stifle the freedom of thought. Today that takes the form of the passive dictatorship that is raising one’s arms in chorus, a sort of demotatorship which is but a parody of what democracy really signifies and means.
Kafka’s The Metamorphosis served as a source of inspiration to Ionesco, as well as his personal internal conflict with the birth of Nazism at the time as an individual. With that transparent personal case he spoke honestly of ideological contamination – something more than familiar to us all as we live in an era of general, mental and spiritual pollution. When we look around us, what we see is a flood of meaningless words, dangerous stances, prejudices, all sorts of spectres, radical behaviour…
Today as well this play by Ionesco is welcome on every stage and reaches our ears with ease, ears which are well-tuned to understanding it. This is so because, at times, the future is most clear by peeking back into history itself. Rhinoceros excites, forces one to reflect, frightens, induces laughter, but also helps formulate the right questions. We recognise ourselves in them: once we begin to accept the current trends and become part of the herd, once we begin to bow down to the opinions of the majority from simple fear of being judged, once we begin to close a blind eye in order to protect our careers… The natural tendency of every human being is to assimilate him or herself into a group, a group of like-minded people, but this group ought not be a reason for losing one’s individuality due to a fear loneliness without it, but ought to instead become a channel for expressive potential, which only in solidarity with other individuals can achieve an ennobled, true form.
Rhinoceros is a play in which, for better or worse, contemporary man and woman recognise themselves.