Icarus’ production of Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist thriller is everything you’d expect with Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt. If you know little about the German practitioner than this little lesson can’t do you any harm… 

The art of distancing or alienating an audience to avoid them getting too emotionally involved. Max Lewendel’s direction does exactly this. There is a constant tennis match in this production from Icarus, one moment there is a drop shot from the reality to quickly be hit for six by the absurd. However, what’s to stop the plot from becoming gibberish? What’s to stop the plot from being a dull ache as it goes from A to B? 

Without spoiling this little pocket rocket of a herb, Ionesco’s The Lesson takes brings us in as a fly on the wall of a very highly intellectual lesson. Put simply the Pupil, played by Hazel Caulfield, attempts to learn from the Professor, played by Jerome Ngonadi, who is aided by the Maid, played by Julie Stark, with the help of cupboards designed by Christopher Hone, noise designed by Matt Downing, bulbs by Stevie Carty, moving bulbs on the cupboards by Ben Glover and things people move around wearing by Isabella Van Braeckel. To put it any more complex would spoil the play… and this paragraph. 

The altercations between the actors are choreographed by Ronin Traynor and the alterations to what the actors wear by Lucy Fowler. Finally, the magic really happens with the help of Patrick Ashe – quite literally. But literality is to be taken with a pinch of salt. 

Alas, this review needs must some structure or it is no longer a review, merely a collection of letters on a virtual page. Producers Izzy Hayden and Ciara Wynne have facilitated a brilliant all-inclusive production of classy absurdist theatre. The videography from Glover opens doors in a very audiocentric art so that deaf or hard of hearing audience can now enjoy a silly rompy in all its glory. 

The chemistry between the triple treat on stage threads endless waves of logic met by nonsense until wisdom sinks in its teeth! Caulfield’s delectable excitement is infectious, whilst Ngonadi’s stupor is sensational and firstly Stark’s stern repose preposterous!

As far as absurdist theatre goes, this production at The Southwark Playhouse will certainly leave your sense of direction positively nonplussed! 


Review: Sebastian Calver   Photo: ikinyum