Festival Theatre

Rhinoceros

Royal Lyceum Theatre

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Neil Cooper

four stars

“IT IS an internal matter,” says a spiv-like local official as his town is over-run by rhinoceroses in Zinnie Harris' reimagining of Eugene Ionesco's 1959 absurdist classic. “It'll blow over.” Such are the famous last words of easily corruptible civic mandarins the world over, as laissez-faire small town ways give way to mob rule by noisy grotesques who only travel in packs.

Such a scenario is all too recognisable on our doorsteps in a post-Brexit, Trump age. Imagine, then, how close to home it must be just now in a volatile Turkey, where director Murat Daltaban's DOT Theatre company, who are co-producing the show with the Royal Lyceum, are based.

Things begin playfully enough, with Robert Jack's local intellectual waster Berenger hooking up with Steven McNicoll's pompous clever-clogs Jean in the square. As the town-folk go about their business, it is clear that Berenger is smitten with Ece Dizdar's Papatya, seemingly to no avail. Slapstick prat-falls abound in a world which initially resembles Monty Python doing Trumpton. When what sounds like a particularly big-footed riot descends on the square, the desire for strength in numbers leaves everyone except Berenger and Papatya, it seems, infected.

Harris' script is peppered with subtle hints of now in Daltaban's increasingly unhinged sprawl through a society's collapse into bully-boy barbarism. Pulsed by Oguz Kaplangi's live score, a Scots/Turkish cast capture the full comic gamut of the play's broad satirical brush-strokes. When Berenger utters his determined proclamation not to give in to the new regime, despite the world turned upside down behind him, however, it is a defiant cry for our times.