Rhinoceros invades The Owl and the Pussycat

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The Owl and the Pussycat art gallery and 5pound theatre have been completely transformed for the staging of Rhinoceros, a play about the inhabitants of a French provincial town slowly turning into horned pachyderms.

Originally staged in 1959, the work belongs to the Theatre of the Absurd which relies heavily on existentialist philosophy – but it’s not what you think. Rhinoceros is very funny, very tongue in cheek. The town’s transformation symbolises so many things, originally it was the fear of communism and fascism, today the metaphor can apply to everything from homosexuality to the dreaded boat people, anything that is “the other”.

Genuine and funny, the divide between audience and stage is non-existent: the actors move through the crowd as the stage morphs around them. The audience moves with the actors to different rooms for different acts – the actors change the sets in full view. In Rhinoceros the audience are not “others” observing, they are complicit, entertained, curious, engaged – do they share the fear of the rhinoceros or are they pro-metamorphosis?

With a running time of over 2 hours and a couple of intervals, Rhinoceros is an immersive experience. The cast, all wonderful, are clearly having a ball with the material and each other – their enthusiasm is infectious.

5pound has busted it out for Melbourne Fringe, gaining a full liquor license adds classy service – a waitress roams the crowd between acts to offer drinks. You can order in a pizza from across the road or some Thai from next door to linger and nosh after the show. 5pound are seriously impressive and are going from strength to strength. Highly recommended.

5pound Theatre @ The Owl and Pussycat Gallery
34 Swan St, Richmond
Until October 8th as part of Melbourne Fringe

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