Approaching Ionesco’s Rhinoceros

Two approaches to rhinoceritis

Ionesco leaves the rhinoceritis transfigurations open ended, vague. While his rhinos were inspired  by fascists, the particular pachyderms of his play are left free to represent any mass movement: fascism communism or what may come.

This ambiguity may be born of generosity to future producers, a gift of open metaphor to the challenges of later days, or may be born of grasping fearful selfishness, afraid to marry his moment of inspiration when a more beautifully relevant moment may later come along-no matter for the producers! The author is dead etc etc.! But how to fill the void left by Ionesco’s lost purpose?

I’ve two opposing impulses in this.

One: Ionesco’s indecision, or at least inspecificity gifts each producer with an opportunity for decision – a gate meant to be closed. On paper, the “tendency to mass-movement” is vague, on stage it must be particular to the time: fascism, communism, apathy. The rhino should shape itself to the species of the day.

Two: room for ghosts: if the masses are uncertain and amorphous; if the mass movement of the time is not only apathy but Fear Born of Uncertainty,Unwillingness To Act,  then the rhino may (must) be undefined, a spirit, a ghost, unwilling to show itself.

This second read provides at least superficial if not deep and irresolvable conflict with the text: Ionesco’s rhinos are destructive, powerful, intimidating. Ghosts can be this too, but not typically by virtue of physical power and force. A ghost does not charge through walls.