For my Individual Project, I elected to do a performance piece. Specifically, I have chosen extracts of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (1959) and compiled them into a script with the intent of displaying theatre’s ability to capture the absurdity of individuality in an arbitrary universe where all is the same. I decided to pursue my project in this direction due to my interest in absurdism cultivated a year ago when I first read Ionesco’s play. Moreover, my performance as Peter Quince in the Pop Mechanicals production during the Year 10 Dramabilities course informed my desire to play an unorthodox and comical character. Thus, inspired by “Theatre of the Absurd”, I wanted to portray Bèrenger’s desperate struggle as an exhausted and passive individual in a dehumanised world.
The approach I took with the project was one of attempting to maintain a faithfulness to the original text while taking creative liberties where necessary. I chose to pursue it this way to preserve the anti-theatrical style and language present in Ionesco’s play. However, if I were to face a roadblock, I would be able to adapt my script thanks to the flexibility of my approach. As such, two essential points from Ionesco were successfully incorporated:
- Bèrenger’s individualistic alienation.
- People turning into rhinoceroses.
Originally, my project contained particular elements of music and an elaborate set. My set included various props, such as: cotton wool, photographs, drinks, a bar, a mirror, a coffee table, a chair, a rhinoceros mask and buckets of dust. I had planned on using the sound of a rhinoceros stampede and knocking down buckets of dust in order to illustrate a transition between an excerpt from the beginning of the play to the end. Then, one iteration saw just a cardboard box, which I would use to transform the set into whatever I pleased, for example: making a makeshift window or hiding place.
After extensive rehearsals and feedback, I made the decision to have no props, besides a chair and a rhinoceros mask, in order to highlight my strengths of physicality and expression as an actor. This choice helped fine-tune communicating my project’s intention in showcasing Theatre of the Absurd’s mantra, providing ample opportunity and space to play with Bèrenger’s disconnect from the world around him, for example: imitating characters’ reactions to the rhinoceros but he himself ignoring it. Furthermore, my choice for the audience to turn into rhinoceroses, instead of characters in the play, was the most significant aspect of my project, intending to make the audience experience interactive and collective drama, which would also isolate the character of Bèrenger meta.