«Rhinoceros Background Pack Contents About the production 2 Synopsis of the play 3 About the writer: Eugene Ionesco 5 Ionesco and Berenger 6 Ionesco ...»
© Royal Court Theatre, 2007 Writing activities The Rhinoceros Quiz Challenge students to compile a personality test based on the quizzes commonly found in teen magazines. After watching the play, ask pupils to discuss the reasons why each
of the characters seems to transform into a rhinoceros. Read the following quiz answers:
Mostly A: You are Daisy. You enjoy solving problems and getting on with life.
Special skills: picnic making, typing Mostly B: You are Dudard. You find it easy to see both sides of the story.
Special skills: sucking up to the boss.
Mostly C: You are the Logician. You use logic and reason to make sense of the world. Special skills: deductive reasoning Mostly D: You are Botard. Only you can see the world as it really is.
Special skills: shouting Mostly E: You are Jean. You are the very model of a sober modern citizen.
Special skills: wardrobe maintenance Ask students to divide quiz questions in the form of moral dilemmas. After devising a moral dilemma, students should provide 5 possible courses of action, reflecting the
likely behaviour of Daisy, Dudard, the Logician, Botard and Jean. An example of a possible quiz question is given below:
While at work, you receive an email from Senior Management informing you that, “effective immediately, the eating of chocolate biscuits will be banned in the office in an attempt to reduce the harmful effects of crumb-damage on company computers”.
(a) Bake a tray of flapjacks in an effort to cheer up your biscuit-deprived colleagues?
(b) Send and email back to Senior Management, congratulating them on their rigour and suggesting that the ban is extended to yoghurt.
(c) Argue that biscuits are essential to the strength and well-being of your department, and that a ban will inevitably result in a loss in productivity which may well cost the company more than the net cost of annual computer repair.
(d) Send a group email to your colleagues inviting them to stage a sit-down protest between 4.00pm and 4.15pm.
(e) Stash a secret packet of biscuits in your bottom drawer and munch your way through them when no one is looking.
After compiling the quiz questions, ask students to take each others’ tests to find out which of the play’s characters they most resemble.
© Royal Court Theatre, 2007 Metamorphosis Ionesco and his fellow avant garde writers were influenced by the use of ‘literalisme’ within literary writing. The technique involves driving a non-naturalistic premise or conceit to its logical conclusion. For instance, in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to find himself transformed into an insect. Kafka never suggests the reason for Samsa’s transformation, nor does he allow the other characters to doubt that the metamorphosis is genuine. Instead Kafka sets out to follow his illogical premise to its logical conclusion, describing the difficult his character has in eating, washing, walking and connecting with his family.
Similarly, in Rhinoceros, Ionesco starts from the premise that it is possible for a man to transform into a rhinoceros, using this idea to power the narrative of the play.
Ask students to discuss the symbolic significance of Ionesco’s choice of animal before choosing an animal of their own. Challenge students to list the words or images that come to mind when they consider this animal. What aspect of human nature might this animal symbolise?
Encourage students to write a short play, or a scene from a longer play, which begins with a character waking up to find themselves transformed into their chosen animal.
Ask students to consider the following:
• Where might the scene take place?
• What does the central character want to do this morning?
• How does the central character find out about the transformation?
• What is his / her reaction to the transformation?
• Who might intrude on the scene and what might their reaction be?
• How does the transformation affect the character’s objectives?
© Royal Court Theatre, 2007 Design challenge Jean’s transformation During the course of Act 2, Berenger’s best friend, Jean, transforms from man to rhinoceros. Working out exactly how he transforms is a job for the Royal Court’s Production Department. The play’s Assistant Director plotted Jean’s transformation in order to help the Production Department work out how to deliver the stage effects that Ionesco wanted.
Using the ‘transformation plot’, design a way of staging the Act 2. You
might like to consider the following:
• Will you use make up, prosthetics, the actor’s physicality or masks to illustrate Jean’s transformation?
• What equipment will you need?
• How will you make Jean’s final entrance ‘spectacular’?
• Jean’s entire body is ‘green’ and ‘leathery’
• Jean has a small lump on his forehead Exit 1
• Jean is offstage for a maximum of 10 seconds
• When he returns, his face is slightly more ‘green’ Exit 2
• Jean is offstage for a maximum of 20 seconds
• When he returns, he is ‘very green’ and the lump ‘over his nose’ is ‘a bit bigger’ Exit 3
• Jean is offstage for a maximum of 35 seconds
• When he returns, his entrance is ‘terrifying’, he is now ‘totally green’, the lump on his forehead is ‘almost a rhinoceros horn’ Exit 4
• Jean never reappears on stage
• A rhino horn pierces the bathroom door along with Berenger’s jacket © Royal Court Theatre, 2007 Movement exercises The Cafe
• Walk around the room in rigid straight lines
• Only change direction when you reach a wall
• Keep your movements efficient and your face expressionless
• When you make eye contact with someone else, give them small, formal nod
• Walk towards another person in a perfectly straight line
• When you are close enough, say ‘bonjour’
• Use the word as a formal exchange rather than an expression of pleasure or welcome
• Find an appropriately formal distance between yourself and the person you are speaking to
• Find a chair and, one by one, bring it into the centre of the space with great formality
• Sit on the chair making sure that your clothes are arranged properly
• Watch the other members of the group arriving, nod at them and say ‘bonjour’
• Imagine that the last person to enter the space is late for an important gathering and react in a manner that demonstrates your disapproval
• When you are all sitting, begin an activity which might be appropriate for a provincial French cafe in the 1950s
• Ask all the girls to leave the cafe
• One by one, the girls should arrive and the boys should stand until they take their seats
• Imagine that you have discovered that something unpleasant is stuck to your backside: stand up, remove it and sit down again in such a way that nobody would find your behaviour odd or vulgar
• Imagine that there is a disgusting smell coming from the cafe and react accordingly
• Begin to engage each other in conversation about the source of the smell
• You should try and use French words or English words spoken in a French accent
• Decide as a group who might be responsible for the disgusting smell
• Express your displeasure with this person and get them to leave the cafe without creating a messy scene or an argument © Royal Court Theatre, 2007 Becoming a Rhinoceros
• Lie on your back and find a slow steady rhythm for your breathing
• Locate a mental image of a rhinoceros
• Begin to exhale with a snort
• Feel your body getting heavier
• Start to get up off the floor as if your limbs were made of stone
• Find a way of getting up off the floor that doesn’t involve using your hands
• Keep breathing deeply and heavily, snorting on the out breath
• Stay on all fours or rise to your feet
• Experiment with rhinos at rest, leaning against a wall or playing with an object
• Don’t try and achieve anything, don’t try and be a rhinoceros, simply find a language of movement that expresses something about rhinoceroses
• Remember that rhinoceroses have terrible eyesight and brilliant hearing
• Herd together in the centre of the room
• Without talking, decide which is the ’alpha rhino’ and treat him or her accordingly
• Bring a chair into the centre of the space with the clumsiness of a rhinoceros
• Feel yourself becoming a little more human, but keep the sensation of being part rhinoceros
• Find another way of sitting on your chair
• Imagine that you are sitting in a cafe and start making eye contact with the other customers
• Experiment with different ways of greeting them
• Pick a chair that someone else in the cafe is occupying, and without using any words, try and occupy that chair
• Select somebody to be the waiter or waitress and send them back into the scene
• Ask the rhinos to order food and drinks and to make their displeasure known if they aren’t served promptly © Royal Court Theatre, 2007 Useful links Stagework www.stagework.org Read the full rehearsal diaries, watch video clips of rehearsal and explore the technical wizardry behind the production at this interactive education site Info.com reference.info.com/reference Search ‘crowd psychology’ for a useful introduction to modern theories of crowd behaviour and mass hysteria Sparknotes www.sparknotes.com/drama/rhinoceros A detailed study guide for Ionesco’s play containing articles on the major themes of Rhinoceros, a commentary on each scene and a list of essay questions BBC Devon www.bbc.co.uk/devon/rhino Follow this online rhino conservation project, browse photographs and meet the zookeepers dedicated to preserving the UK’s population of black rhinos International Rhino Foundation www.rhinos-irf.org/rhinoinformation Find out about the differences between the black rhino and the white rhino at this detailed and informative conservation site Ionesco Home Page www.ionesco.org Lovingly created Ionesco ‘fan site’ which includes a list of the writer’s plays, a biography and a information about the plays in performance BBC History http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide Accounts of the Final Solution and an interactive timeline detailing the history of persecution and genocide in World War 2