how to make theatre absurd



It’s a familiar question.


Tell us a story when you were going about your own business and something completely ridiculous or inexplicable happened. What did you do?

I walked into a familiar space with a ticket to a secret show.  The new fashion across our local theatres is to serve up a play that is a mystery.  I had no idea that this show I saw a while ago would be the most absurd experience of my life.

Cue:  The Bald Prima Donna by Ionesco

The Bald Prima Donna is a classic piece from the theatre of the absurd. Offering the audience advice such as ‘a haddock in a paddock is better than a crab in a lab’ and ‘I’d rather slaughter a rabbit than whistle in the garden’, Ionesco’s play is surreal and hilarious. The action is set in a suburban London drawing room. Mr & Mrs Smith and Mr & Mrs Martin are presented as middle class benchmarks, with some sturdy lines like, ‘The only respectable thing in England is the Royal Navy’. Meanwhile, the lady of the house obsesses over which shop purveys the best mayonnaise.

However brilliant the cast portray their characters, this is an anti-play where Ionesco’s satire is the real star and try as we might, the audience never gets close to the actors. Truly amazing is the way the Director is able to bring so many themes out in this complex piece of writing. I spotted a few old chestnuts, like how much of our everyday conversation is unthinking and ritualistic. Sections of the play let us fantasise about what it would be like to say what we are thinking out loud as the cast reveal what is going on in their heads. We take a glimpse at what life is like for the two couples brave enough to be on stage when reality is suspended. We hear Mrs Smith firmly argue that ‘when the doorbell rings this means there is nobody there’ as the play examines whether truth is important in our lives. I imagine people who are addicted to the glossy lifestyle of today’s suburban London might miss the irony of whether truth is important.

If all this sounds a little serious, be reassured that the audience laughed loudly and often all the way through the performance. The humour is brought out with imaginative use of movement and excellent timing whilst the satire is always hanging in the balance with lines like “a maid is always a maid…she hasn’t had the necessary education”.

Overall this is an excellent piece of Oxford student drama being intelligent, witty and giving you the opportunity to admire the impressive architecture of St John’s auditorium. The level of production and performance verges on the professional. Should you feel the need to debate the ideas, you’re left with enough time to get a round in at the pub afterwards.

The title of the play was taken from an absurd English phrase book and the play ends with the question on everyone’s lips ‘What about the bald prima donna?’ The reply is, ‘She always wears her hair the same way’. Oh well, ask a stupid question…




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From Balderdash To Epiphany. Generous Genie


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Rothchild’s Parlor 6.1 The Rhinoceros Catapult

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Anecdotal Tales Too Hot Too Handle (Weekly Writing Challenge)

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27 thoughts on “how to make theatre absurd

  1. Lita, a very enjoyable post, “how to make theatre absurd”. You’re excellent at capturing the essence of the any event with your words, painting a fantastic visual. Your description “surreal and hilarious”, is right up my alley. I got a good laugh with, “She always wears her hair the same way”! Have a wonderful week.

    Warm wishes,


  2. What a fun, entertaining yet thoughtful post it was Lita ! Seems like you are lucky enough to attend or know about lot of theaters !

    It strangely reminded of this quote “Life is a theater set in which there are but few practicable entrances.”
    ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

    Hope you had a good weekend. With love,
    Zee ❤


    • The Victor Hugo quote is amazing! Thanks for making my day Zee. That is such a wonderful find.

      I had a great time checking out your Autumn post.

      Here’s to a brilliant week ahead. There was a tiny bit of frost early this morning, (boo!) but a good time to look out for autumnal colours ;-D


      Lita 🙂


    • So great to hear from you! I love the look of your site, it feels like a new design to my last visit. It looks so fresh and the posts have been so uplifting to catch up on this morning. Can’t wait to go to H&M now!!

      Thank you for your comment. I know we both share a love of theatre and performance. For sure the duck steals the show today! I was chasing him around the park for a close up!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Lita! Your comments always give me a huge lift. I’m recovering from a virus and 4 days in bed so just what I needs to hear on this glorious morning. I’d love to have seen you chasing that Duck!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • haha yeah he was SPEEDY!!! I think he wanted to take cover in the daffodils he was running for them fast!

        hope you feel fab soon! Great guest blogging you have been doing! More power to you!

        We got a bit of sun here today in south London (freaky weather) so hope the Emerald Isle is doing you proud.

        Happy days!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much Cindi! This show really connected with me so your words are deeply encouraging. I am grateful. I definitely think Absurd Theatre would be a tough style to direct so I am glad to enjoy someone else’s version!!

    Your photograph for Wordless Wednesday is the most moving image I have seen on WordPress. It’s so alive with light and has an immediate presence. It reminds me how powerful nature is (and that maybe we should know our place in it!!)

    All my very best wishes


    • It would be great to hang out in the theatre we could sit and chat for ages!! I loved your Haiku for the girl of the Gobi Desert. I guess WordPress is our virtual neighbourhood.

      The show was funny and serious at the same time but mainly hilarious! It’s weird when you laugh at lines that are serious. I’m glad I got it across. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lita, you had me at “secret show!” What a great adventure. And the reward: a wonderful, absurd Ionesco! I haven’t read Ionesco since I was a student; maybe I’ll give this one a read. Thanks!


    • Linda, watching this ‘secret’ show made me finally ‘get’ Ionesco (I would not have gone if I’d known it was absurd!) – they presented his complex lines in a bold and basic way and it meant something to me. . I hope you enjoy it anew if you have a read!

      Your recent review just changed my whole view on films. I love the insight in your posts.

      I do envy your recent walk up that steep cliff (what a view!!).


  5. Pingback: Block Party | Chic Prune

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