geoffrey rush is king

Eugène Ionesco‘s 1962 play Exit the King (Le Roi Se Meurt) sets up an ailing monarchist’s ever slackening grip on reality and his kingdom as he slides closer towards his own demise.

Geoffrey Rush and director Neil Armfield have translated the piece into a rollicking English absurdist comedy that touches on mental illness, politics and environment, and even a stab at the old Bush administration.

Rush’s King recently won him the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actor In A Play. I have had the privelidge of seeing Rush perform in Australia in Company B’s The Small Poppies and the STC’s The Importance of Being Ernest – with the late Australian legends Ruth Cracknell and Gordon Chater. There are wonderful overtones in Rush’s King to Cracknell’s definitive Maggie in Mother & Son.

What I realised watching Rush is that you have to bring your best game to the stage at all times when working with him. And Lauren Ambrose most certainly does that as Queen Marie. Her youthful exuberance and naivety truly compliments his performance. Susan Sarandon returns to Broadway after almost a thirty year absence. There are times when she is quite cinematic which slightly underplays the role over the boisterousness of the rest of the cast. But you can forgive these slight imbalances because after all, this is Sarandon. Her Queen Maragaret provides the voice of reason and chastisement that this play (and in fact, our world) requires.

Andrea Martin is another giant of stage and screen, and once again, as the Juliette, she does not disappoint. She has an amazing sense of comic timing that has you in stitches from her first step on the stage. Brian Hutchinson proves that there are never any small roles, as his presence is constant throughout the play, ever silently loitering.

This play is quite timely in it’s interpretation in the post-Bush era of climate change and financial crisis. Armfield’s direction is truly flawless. He keeps you engaged even in the most ludicrous of situations, never letting up on the pace and fever pitch as you roll along to the inevitable destruction at the end.

You might expect that with such big A list names that there would be an element of grandstanding. These people are professionals. This is true ensemble work at it’s very best.

Beg, borrow, steal, murder …. just get yourself a ticket. Quickly.

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