Rhinoceros debuts at the Market Theatre

Lusanda Zokufa

The Market Theatre Laboratory kicks off its 30-year anniversary celebrations with a production of Rhinoceros, written by celebrated French-Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco, and performed by Kwasha! Theatre Company.

  Rhinoceros, first performed in 1959, is an emblematic work from Ionesco, one of the foremost figures of the French avant-garde theatre and the Theatre of the Absurd.

  The play depicts an imaginary epidemic of “rhinoceritis”, a disease that frightens all the inhabitants of a city and soon transforms them into rhinoceroses.

  A metaphor for the rise of totalitarianism on the eve of the Second World War, it addresses the themes of conformism and resistance to political power.

  Directed by Theatre Duo Mahlatsi Mokgonyana and Billy Langa, who are known for their mastery of physical theatre, the company will combine different registers to bring this metaphor to life, exploring the tragic situation of human politics through the use of fantastical images.

  Rhinoceros is a play that is particularly relevant in the current moment, in terms of the global resurgence of fascism and the far-right, and in relation to South Africa’s recent and recurring ‘xenophobic’ attacks, providing a reflection on authoritarianism, false logic, and free will.

  This play allows us to simultaneously honour the Market Theatre Laboratory tradition of making socially relevant theatre, while giving young actors the opportunity to work on classic and stretching texts or adaptations.

  Kwasha! Theatre Company, a collaborative project with the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Windybrow Arts Centre, has already garnered international tour invitations, two Naledi award nominations, and two awards at the National Arts Festival since the company was launched in February 2018 to support emerging artists in establishing professional careers, with a focus on Market Theatre Laboratory graduates.

  Kwasha!’s work is a fitting way to open the Market Theatre Laboratory’s 30 Years of the Lab celebrations, which will be comprised of a nine-week long festival.

  The event promises a diverse offering of alumni productions, storytelling evenings, a performance lecture, an alumni showcase and an exhibition that brings together, for the first time, a Market Theatre Laboratory archive of photographs, film, stories, and other records of its 30 year journey, reflecting on its relationship with South African history, and the shifting performing arts landscape.

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