Exit the King
Eugène Ionesco is to avant-garde theatre what Shakespeare is to blank verse. The French-Romanian playwright pioneered a new style of theatre that uses banal situations and absurdism to plumb the solitude and insignificance of life.
Despite his prominence in European theatre and beyond, Ionesco is less well known in the UK. But that's set to change as his work will be performed at the National Theatre for the first time.
1962 play Le Roi se meurt, translated as Exit the King has played in Australia and on Broadway to Tony-winning success with a cast including Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon. More recently the tragi-comedy was revived with a lively and well-executed 2014 production at Bath's Ustinov Studios.
Prolific theatre-maker Patrick Marber adapts and directs the National Theatre production, which opens at the Olivier Theatre this summer and stars Rhys Ifans as the belligerent king.
Set 'somewhere in Europe' the play follows 400-year-old King Bérenger on the last day of his life. His first wife is making the necessary preparations for death; his second, and favourite, wife is in denial. A bleak strand of absurdism sharpens the exploration of death, leaving us
Fresh from impressing in as Scrooge in the Old Vic's Christmas Carol, Rhys Ifans brings his impish talents to the role of a man who refuses to hang up his crown and accept his own mortality. Indira Varma (Games of Thrones; Man and Superman, National Theatre) plays the first queen and rising star Amy Morgan (Touch, Soho Theatre) plays the younger second queen.