The Chairs

Corbett Theatre, 2015

The Chairs is a piece of science fiction about the last two people left alive— a ‘book end’ with the Adam and Eve story in the bible. These two characters are the end of what Adam and Eve began. 

It has been 63 years since the original production of The Chairs in 1952, which took place seven years after the end of the Second World War. In his book Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd, Michael Bennett suggests that Martin Esslin’s interpretation of Ionesco’s work based on his reading of the philosophy of Albert Camus (presented in The Theatre of the Absurd), is wrong. He suggests that Esslin misread Camus as an existentialist, when he, and by extension, Ionesco, were actually reacting against an existentialist view of the world. I tend to agree with Bennett, and created a version of The Chairs which, instead of presenting the absurdity and purposelessness of the world, asks the question “what is one to do, given that the world is absurd?”

Writing to the original director of The Chairs, Sylvain Dhomme, Ionesco said that the subject of the play “is not the message, nor the failures of life, nor the moral disaster of the two old people, but the chairs themselves; that is to say, the absence of people, the absence of the emperor, the absence of God, the absence of matter, the unreality of the world, metaphysical emptiness. The theme of the play is nothingness[...] to give unreality to reality one must give reality to the unreal.” This essential unreality of the world, and the character’s reactions to it, is at the heart of the play.