The Lesson ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse | Jun 29 - Jul 23, 2022


The power of absurdist drama is that the "lesson" we take from it depends very much on what we bring to it. The audience will mine different meanings from the work depending on their own experience. For us, Ionesco's piece seemed to foreshadow the destructive power of internet misinformation as the naïve pupil is gradually worn down by the pedantic and pernicious posturing of the instructor. Her credulity and inability to deal with the complex or abstract concepts leave her at his mercy and he proves to have none. Ionesco's dark meditation on the relationship between 'knowledge' providers and their pupils resonates with today's political realities. Hazel Caulfield was completely credible as The Pupil whose ingenuousness radiated from a fixed, almost robotic smile. It is excruciating to see her sense of self and her understanding unraveled to the point where all she can do is articulate her pain. Jerome Ngonadi is truly terrifying as The Professor who maniacally destroys his would-be disciple. He gives a commanding performance as he moves from flattering and wooing to berating and destroying the young woman who puts her faith in him. Ngonadi makes his developing obsessiveness positively palpable. In the face of these strong portrayals it might be difficult for Julie Stark as The Maid to carve out her place, but she brings a commandingly brooding power to her character as she supports and ultimately controls the madness of The Professor. This is not an easy piece of theatre, but the Icarus Theatre Collective does an outstanding job of conveying the fierce power of Ionesco's lesson. The team has created a must-see production.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Ikin Yum.

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