Exit The King starring Rhys Ifans at National Theatre

Rhys Ifans is dying to be funny 

(5 / 5)

Click here to watch my review of Exit The King starring Rhys Ifans on the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews

Production shot of Rhys Ifans in Exit The King by Eugene Ionesco adapted by Patrick Marber at National Theatre London
Rhys Ifans in Exit The King. Photo: Simon Annand

Exit the King is about how we come to terms with the shocking fact that we’re all going to die. As a character says in the play, ‘everyone is the first person ever to die.’

Patrick Marber has done a brilliant job both as director and as the adapter of Eugene Ionesco’s original play. It sounds contemporary and there are funny lines galore and there remains Ionesco’s intention that theatre itself with its exits and entrances should be a metaphor for life. The characters speak in a theatrical way and the King is  told early on ‘you’re going to die at the end of the play.’

And as the King, Rhys Ifans is extraordinary. He goes through denial and anger and all the other emotions experienced by those who are dying. Physically he declines before our eyes. He sounds like one of those declamatory stage actors of old like Laurence Olivier and his physical comedy reminded me of Jerry Lewis.

Production shot of Rhys Ifans in Exit The King by Eugene Ionesco adapted by Patrick Marber at National Theatre London
Rhys Ifans in Exit The King. Photo: Simon Annand

He’s supported by Indira Varma as the cool first Queen, Amy Morgan as the not-so-dumb blonde second Queen and Debra Gillett hilarious as the irreverent servant. Adrian Scarborough and Derek Griffiths complete an all round superb cast.

My only disappointment was that the ending felt dragged out and momentum was lost.

Oh, and credit where it’s due to set designer Anthony Ward. So often designers are defeated by the size of the National Theatre’s Olivier stage but his solution is to have the small cast at the front for most of the play with a big crumbling palace wall behind them, then, in a gobsmacking ending, the set disappears and the whole grand canyon of the stage area opens up as the king dies and fades into eternity. It’s a theatrical moment of which one feels sure Ionesco would have approved.

Exit The King with Rhys Ifans is at the National Theatre until 6 October 2018

Watch my YouTube review of Rhys Ifans in Exit The King-

My December 2017 Theatre Picks

Scene from Nativity! The Musical
Nativity! The Musical on tour

Christmas? Humbug! But which Scrooge to choose? I’m hoping to get to one of the two fabulous-sounding Christmas Carols, either at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon adapted by David Edgar and starring Phil Davis or at the Old Vic in London with Rhys Ifans.

I have high hopes of the touring production of Nativity! The Musical, which has had some very good reviews. It’s going to be my theatrical Christmas treat during the Christmas holiday week (well, I hope it is- see my review at the end of the month).

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe at West Yorkshire Playhouse is a clever magical production well worth a trip to Narnia via Leeds.

There’s nothing like a traditional panto at Christmas so, before it’s behind you, get down to Basildon for the Towngate Theatre’s Aladdin or head to Stratford East for the Theatre Royal’s Rapunzel.

Which is the fairest Christmas production of them all?  It’s hard to see how Pinocchio at the National Theatre can fail. It’s directed by John Tiffany who directed the Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, written by Dennis Kelly co-writer of Matilda, lit by Paule Constable who’s currently lighting Heisenberg and features the songs from the Disney classic animation.