Directed by Jim Fishwick
Jetpack Theatre Collective
Kings Cross Theatre
244-248 Williams Street, Kings Cross
Season: 27 – 31 July
Global politics seems to be becoming increasingly radical, underlined by racism and characterised by fear-mongering and self-interest. Rising forces in Australian politics act as a good example. While one may not think that an Absurdist play, crafted by a French playwright in the 1950s could possibly be relevant to contemporary audiences, Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros blows expectations out of the water. The play’s protagonist, Berenger, slowly sees more of his acquaintances, friends and loved ones transform into rhinoceroses. At first it seems far-fetched, until few humans remain. A pointed allegory for radicalisation of people during Nazi power in WWII, countless parallels can be drawn between the text’s paradigms, and those of today. This is a play that should make you stop and think, as we are bombarded with reports of terror attacks and platforms are provided for Islamophobic propaganda. Jetpack Theatre Collective tackle the play, fearlessly incorporating some innovative concepts. While some of the dramaturgy is weaker in some of the scenework between characters, the production is different – and is something that should make people stop, and take notice.
Ionesco's text is awash with theories and big academic words that aren't immediately apparent as relevant ideas for a contemporary audience. But they are. The key, I think, is to help the audience understand the relevance by framing quite lofty ideas in comprehensive terms. When watching the Jetpack production, I wasn't convinced that every actor wholly understood the meaning of the text that the script compelled them to spurt out. As a result, I didn't always feel apprehended by the miraculous occurrences of people being transformed into rhinoceroses, or by the bickering about its validity that encompassed it.
The strength of this production is its ability to establish a bold concept, and follow through with it, without a tremble. Robert Boddington’s transformation into a rhinoceros is nothing short of tremendous – throwing away any reserve as an actor. This takes guts, and it pays off – you cannot look away. The nature of this production is to give the audience an immersive experience of the show: you will be shuffled into different seats, directly addressed by the actors and even, at the show’s climax, brought collectively onto the stage with the performers. It is likely you will be made to feel uncomfortable, and this is quite transformative of the theatrical experience. Usually, you can slide back into your cushy chair and observe from the sideline. In Jetpack Theatre’s show, there is no sideline. I’m sure you will be affected by the experience. At the show’s climax, the performers are greatly successful in creating full audience involvement, which is a major achievement. Crucially, the effective realisation of this concept heightens the dramatic meaning excellently.
People like Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson have risen to new levels with increasing political influence. Everyone knows them, and everyone has an opinion. Within this climate, it becomes only more important to be individuals who probe for truth and actual understanding of the world around us, not mindless consumers of mass media and the political ‘feeling’ of our society. Jetpack Theatre Collective presents an important work for this day and age, that’s for sure.