The Lesson (3 stars)

The Lesson

Tron, Glasgow, until Sat 17 Oct, then touring


Ionesco’s absurdist classic continues to feel relevant because it chips away at our feeling that something of ourselves remains unexpressed beneath the world of manners, and the arcane language that surrounds it. In Gerry Mulgrew’s production for Benchtours this sense of there being a much better conversation than exists on the surface is nicely explored.

The familiar tale, in which an eager if somewhat misguided student (Kirstin McLean) visits a repressed professor (Peter Clerke) for an intensive tutorial that his maid (Catherine Gillard) warns against is here presented with escalating intensity, ending in violence.

Jason Southgate’s naturalistic set complements Tim Brinkhurst’s playful, eventually alarming surrealist electronic soundscape, but the scary clowning one associates with the piece is a little restrained. This diminishes the effect this exploration of the alarming inadequacy of our systems of knowledge can sometimes have. For all that, there are some nice comic touches in the exposure of the ridiculousness of what we call courtesy. So, too, an increasingly outlandish exploration of language reaches new heights of hyperbolic absurdity.

All this works to demonstrate the lengths to which we go to artificially separate those two inseparable entities, body and mind. There are some good performances too, particularly from McLean’s winsome poppet, which features some subtle physical touches.

The Lesson

  • 3 stars

Benchtours presents Eugene Ionesco's absurdist play about an intense professor, a sparky young student and the shifting power balance that exists between them.

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