I’m a huge fan of Eugène Ionesco and the Theatre of the Absurd in general. I had been looking forward to the performance of Oscar-nominated former stand-up comedian Patrick Marber’s adaptation of Ionesco’s play Exit the King at the National (until 6th October) with very high, perhaps overly high expectations. It’s the first time the National does Ionesco!!
The 1h40m performance (no intermission) was decent by most accounts and, as usual for every London stage performance, received many 4 out of 5 and 5 out of 5 reviews (3 out of 5 by the Guardian). Without any doubt Rhys Ifans’ stage presence is super-intense and riveting, the performance of all the other actors, such as Indira Varma, also excellent.
All photos (c) Simon Annand.
The initial play is a manic mediation on death, which follows King Berenger, who is 483 years old, on his last day, while he is being accompanied by his first and second wife and a number of other characters. Marber makes the play partially about climate change and climate change denial, which on paper might look like a cool idea, but doesn’t work very well in reality.
A lot of the philosophical depth and meaning of the initial play has been replaced by shallow slap-stick, snappy dialogues, and mere chaos.
One thing I liked a lot was the stage set, which was innovative (especially towards the end, after it has started to dramatically deteriorate, then becomes more focused on light effects) and fun.
Looking for other theatre reviews? Check out our reviews of Andrew Scott in Sea Wall at the Old Vic, The Lehman Trilogy at the National, and Wish List, the zero hour contract play, at the Royal Court.
Looking for London restaurants to grab a bite at before the show? Try our reviews of casual creperie Mamie’s, Covent Garden, good-value Cote Brasserie (various locations), and Michelin-starred Aquavit (St James’s, next to West End).
We’ve also reviewed some great hotels: Cotswold House & Spa and the Noel Arms in Chipping Campden, the Sheep on Sheep Street in Stow-on-the-Wold, and QT Hotel Bondi in Sydney, if that’s what you’re looking for.