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The Chairs
On from 16 Nov 2006 till 16 Dec 2006
Gate Theatre
by Eugenè Ionesco
Genre(s): Drama

About: The Chairs

The Gate is delighted to present The Chairs, one of Ionesco’s earliest works in an acclaimed translation by Martin Crimp. Directed by the Gate’s Artistic Director Thea Sharrock, this one-act play belongs to Ionesco’s most innovative writing and established him as one of the principal playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd.

Directed by Thea Sharrock
Designed by Jeremy Herbert
Choreography by Scarlett Mackmin
Lighting by Oliver Fenwick
Sound by Gregory Clarke

Cast includes: Susan Brown & Nicholas Woodeson

Tickets £15, £10 concessions
BOX OFFICE 020 7229 0706
Monday – Saturday 7.30pm

Come to the Gate on Monday night and pay what you can. Happy Monday tickets cannot be booked and are available on a first-come-first-served basis for the first 20 tickets sold on the door.


The Times November 27, 2006


Sam Marlowe at The Gate, W11

Following the recent announcement that Thea Sharrock is to step down as the Gate’s artistic director, this is her last production at the theatre. She’s going out with a bang — her riveting production of Ionesco’s absurdist farce reverberates with the sound of slamming doors. The playwright referred to the work as a tragic comedy, and Sharrock, supported by Martin Crimp’s sharp-witted translation, Scarlett Mackmin’s choreography and a brilliant design by Jeremy Herbert, beautifully balances its menace, tenderness and hilarity.

Susan Brown and Nicholas Woodeson are sublime as a couple, Old Woman and Old Man, beleaguered in their cheerless home on an island, surrounded by dirty water and mosquitoes. The sense of threat swells as they prepare for a meeting at which an orator is to address an audience of worthies. A doorbell rings, first with polite restraint, then with menacing insistence; doors fly open, seemingly of their own volition, to admit invisible guests; and the pair frantically attempt to fill the room with enough chairs to seat all the arrivals.

At the outset, Brown and Woodeson sit, legs intertwined, childishly reminiscing, a touching if mildly warped vision of domestic contentment. But the words of affection mutate into an explosion of social and sexual frustration as the woman rails at her janitor husband, master only of “the mop and bucket”, for not making more of his life, while he cries for his mummy. The invasion of their home by the hordes of unseen visitors, and the wilful, increasingly frenetic behaviour of door, chair and doorbell, create a sense of hysteria. When, finally, an emperor arrives, and the orator, who turns out to be dumb, appears with a face as grim as death, the couple, in a kind of ecstasy, fling themselves out of the window.

Amid the ebb and flow of frenzy are notions of identity and isolation, of the impossibility of true communication, of the limitations of language and the unending cycle of existence, from womb to grave. And in Brown and Woodeson’s performances, we see the history of a long marriage, with its youthful passions and elderly disillusionment, speeded up and played out in 80 minutes. Peculiarly moving; utterly compelling.

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"The Chairs"

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