Exit the King transports you to a fantasy kingdom in terrible strife. King Berenger I is dying but is full of regret and fear at his death and is begging and fighting to stay alive. As the King slowly deteriorates Queen Marguerite and his Doctor try to sway the King to let go, whilst Queen Marie begs him to hang on. All the while the servants try to keep order as the kingdom continues to decay around them.
This is a fantastic version of Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist drama, translated by Jeremy Sams and directed wonderfully by Laurence Boswell. The play is very darkly comical and melodramatic, as you would expect from an absurdist play. The language is just beautiful, full of rich imagery almost as though the actors are reciting poetry. The play has an epic theatrical style, with the characters often referring to the audience or the fact that they are in a play. They even count down the minutes to the end and the King’s inevitable demise!
The cast are superb, all have strong characters which they are physically committed to throughout. Siobhan Redmond is a fantastic regal and serious Queen Marguerite, which is contrasted very well with Beth Park’s air-headed Queen Marie. Alun Armstrong steals the show with a heart-felt and real journey as the King descends from being a noble royal to a dying old man. His fear and yearning to continue with life is beautiful and really hammers home the moral of not wasting time. He really illustrates the fear we all feel of time running out.
All the action takes place in the King’s throne room which although regal is dusty and dirty. There are many props and scenery which fit the absurd style; balloons littered around, tape trying to hold together a mighty split in the wall and the King is even in his pyjamas! The lighting is dim, and gets darker as the play continues, which provides an ominous atmosphere. The costumes fit in with the fantasy theme, and also highlight the differences in the characters. Queen Marguerite wears a dark green and black regal dress, whereas Queen Marie is dressed like an old fashioned movie star all in pink and Juliette and the Guard wear dusty old robes.
This play will take you on a journey of emotions, from hilarious jokes, absurdist weirdness and heart-felt sorrow. You will leave the theatre felling both inspired and questioning your own life and use of time. It is a must see! 5/5
Review written by Charlotte Claydon.
Exit the King is currently showing at the Ustinov Studio (Theatre Royal Bath) until Saturday 20th December. For more information on the production, visit here…
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