Exit the King - Anonymous Review
This was my first encounter with the play Exit the King, and I have to say it did not disappoint. Written by Eugene Ionesco, this existential, absurdist play centres around King Berenger’s final hours of existence. As the monarch struggles to accept his imminent demise, he is urged by the members of his court to come to terms with his predicament, to the point where he finally succumbs to his unavoidable fate. Upon arrival, the audience were welcomed in with the sound of dripping, seemingly reflective of the gradual deterioration of both the King and the universe around him. Helena Langfield’s direction, alongside the ensemble performance, was highly successful in displaying the universal fear surrounding death, and ultimately the inevitability of disappearing from existence without leaving our own personal mark on the world. Aaron Saint John, who played the titular King, brilliantly presented, both vocally and physically, the fragility of humanity when the unwelcoming, yet unstoppable force of death begins to take its toll.
Overall, there was strong acting from each performer with no weak link in sight. Isla Roberston’s portrayal of Queen Marguerite was highly entertaining, as her direct and stoic personality offered a complimentary contrast to the sympathetic, yet over emotional nature of Queen Marie, played by Bella Gualano. Their interaction at the beginning of the play helped establish the relationship between the three royals, and also in introducing the setting of the play. I must also point out Ellen Travaskiss’ wonderful performance as The Doctor, which highlighted her ability to immerse herself into any role she plays. My personal favourites were Megan Collier as The Nurse Juliette, whose characterisation was not too dissimilar to that of Anita in Dinnerladies, and Will Turner as the clumsy and ever so slightly dim Guard, who could have come straight out of a Monty Python sketch. This pairing provided many of the light hearted, comedic elements of the show, displayed through their background interactions, such as fixing the radiators or playing cards. Last, but certainly not least, Aaron Saint John’s performance as King Berenger skillfully demonstrated the characters reluctance to die through his somber monologues and addresses to the audience, yet his childish side was sparked through his idle naivete and symbolically highlighted by his Mike Wazowski slippers.
I must say a huge congratulations to the tech team on achieving such a slick and aesthetically pleasing design. The set, created by Eleanor Westwood, intrigued me from start to finish yet it clearly exhibited the absurdist genre of the play. I felt the overall image displayed a futuristic, almost post apocalyptic environment, where time had become inconsequential to the rules of society or style. Whilst I enjoyed the variety of colours and costumes on stage, I felt the stage was a little clustered, but this would ultimately be due to the small scale of the drama studio. Additionally, lighting (Jonathan Payne) and sound (Chris Peston) was executed with precision, and really helped encapsulate the fluctuating tone of the performance.
To conclude, watching Exit the King was an interesting yet enjoyable experience, and I want to congratulate all those that were involved!