Reviewed by Angus Bhattacharya.
Berenger is an ordinary man. Following a conversation with his put-together friend, John, a Rhinoceros is spotted stampeding through their town causing the locals to react with a mixture of confusion, anger, awe and despair. What begins as an odd and amusing occurrence transforms into a much more sinister phenomenon as the townsfolk themselves begin changing into Rhinoceroses
Theatre Paradok's presentation of Eugene Ionesco's absurdist play updates the political messages of the original script and setting to the modern day, and it is largely successful in doing so. There are several standout performances; most especially Angus McHarg's portrayal of the central character. As the events of the narrative escalates, he finds his position as an outsider unchanged yet is totally terrified and disgusted by his own humanity at the play's climax. Other praiseworthy performances are given by James Strahan as Duddard - who adopts a constant state of calm and acceptance among the absurdity of the situation -and Camilla Makhmudi's Daisy who is the romantic focus of both Berenger and Duddard.
The cast works well as an ensemble, too, particularly during the first Rhinoceros sighting. Katrina Wooley's effective direction comes across here and in the scene changes. From street cafe, to bedroom and office to kitchen table each scene has a particular and realised mood from which the actors can build the tension of the script. The lighting and tech also contribute to this and so the audience is engaged from the outset.
An interesting addition to Theatre Paradok's production is the use of audience interaction via Facebook Messenger. Audience members receive a barcode, and once scanned they were added to a group chat. This group was sent notifications at various points, mostly during scene transitions. It was fun to see audience members reacting in real time to what was happening on stage and while its hard to say exactly what it added, it certainly did not detract from the experience. All things considered the cast and crew of Rhinoceros created a show with some thoroughly enjoyable moments, strong acting across the board and a highly entertaining evening.