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Eugène Ionesco: A Bluffer's Guide



Eugène Ionesco (1931 – 1994) is a French avant-garde playwright widely considered to be a founding father of the Theatre of the Absurd.

His most famous works include The Chairs and Rhinoceros. The latter was on at the Royal Court in 2007, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role.


Who else is in the Theatre of the Absurd?

It’s not a formal movement, but you could say that Harold Pinter, Jean Genet, Luigi Pirandello, Badal Sarkar and Samuel Beckett are also in the Theatre of the Absurd. Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was the first really popular absurdist play.


What does ‘absurd’ mean?

Well, the word ‘absurd’ means anything that’s unreasonable or doesn’t make sense. Absurdism is a type of existentialism which puts forward the idea that there is no point to human existence. However, humans are preoccupied with finding their purpose: their reason to exist. This gives rise to ‘The Absurd’: the pursuit of the meaning of life, when no such meaning exists.

Theatre of the Absurd examines this quirk of the human condition, typically by ridiculing ordinary situations in front of an audience.


This all sounds a bit sad. Are absurdist plays sad?

Not at all – many absurdist plays are very funny. They turn everyday situations on their head and point out the things that don’t make sense. You’ll probably find a lot to relate to.


What’s so absurd about Exit the King?

Exit the King is about a 400-year-old king facing death. It’s a bit like a lesson in death. How should we approach the one thing that happens to us all


You're intrigued now, right? Come and see Exit the King, playing from 17 July in the Olivier Theatre.