Exit the King
I told myself that you can learn how to die, that you can teach others how to die. This seems to me the essential thing we can do, because we are mortals not accepting the fact of dying ‒ motivates playwright Eugène Ionesco the genesis of the play Exit the King. The text is the warmest, most touching and honest confession of the man Eugène Ionesco about the great final encounter. The endless unrests, the permanent agony from his Journals find their dramatic outlet in one of the most profound „poems” about death and its acceptance. An allegoric metaphor of passage, a mirroring confession of one’s own conscience. The whole inner flounder of Bérenger ‒ the revolt, fear, fright, terror, sadness, joy, desire to live, memories, nostalgia, resignation ‒ is nothing but a rite of passage through which he, the man, learns acceptance, learns to die. But Bérenger is not alone. He has his spouse at his side. Queen Marguerite and Queen Marie ‒ two facets of one and the same woman. Marguerite ‒ the initiator, the one facilitating the access to other worlds „the world before birth and the one after” ‒ she is giving birth, she helps him step into the afterworld; Marie ‒ grace, tenderness, frailty ‒ powerless in the face of Death.
Exit the King is a show of an overwhelming emotion, where each of us plays the lead role.
Eugène Ionesco shall not cease asking himself. „I have always been obsessed with death. Since the age of four, ever since I have known I would die, anguish has never left me. It is as if I had understood, all of a sudden, that there was nothing left to do to escape it and there was nothing left to do in life (…). I am also writing to express my fear of dying, my humility of dying” (in „Notes și Contre-Notes”, Gallimard Idées 1966, p.309). And in „Journal en Miettes/ Fragments of a Journal” (Gallimard Idées, 1967, p. 38), he observes: „Especially to death, I address the question „why” „with terror”. Examples are tens, hundreds in his work. His anguish amplifying over the years, E. Ionesco shall write to Pope John-Paul II himself:„ Holy Father, why is there Evil? Why Suffering? Why Death?” John-Paul II, with whom he had exchanged further two letters, shall reply to him: „The Pope does not have an answer for everything”. Admirable reply through the profession of his weakness, not a reply from catechism or pertaining to a party (whichever it might be). Eugène Ionesco faith was either Light, or pretty similar to the one described by Georges Bernanos: „To believe means doubting 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59 seconds and believing one single second”. Marie-France Ionesco
“We are happy. There have been some months of work which we have enjoyed until the last sip. Mr. Ionesco’s King has enabled one of the most beautiful encounters for us. With people we fell in love with, with people we were already in love with and which we shall cherish the way they offered themselves to us, with smiles, fears, joyful, emotional, authentic. The queen leading us, another one trembling, the overwhelmed physician, the powerless guard, the frail maid and a dying king. We learn from them the art of dying. It is a story with kings and queens, with clouds and trees growing out of floors, great inventors, fears, family, but especially with and about love”. Andrei and Andreea Grosu