Thursday, July 20, 2006

Theatre of the Absurd

When Eugène Ionesco arrived in Wales in 1974 it must have felt like he'd stepped into one of his own absurdist dramas.

Here to collect a £1000 international literary prize from the Welsh Arts Council he first had to spend a fortnight attending various functions in his honour. And Wales it seemed had gone completely Ionesco crazy.

There was the Ionesco Festival and Ionesco Forum in Cardiff. There were book signings and lectures. He travelled to Lampeter, Aberystwyth and Bangor. He sat through French, English and Welsh versions of his own plays... even though he spoke little English and even less Welsh.

He was interviewed in French by an academic from Aberystwyth University with the result screened on ITV Wales. The voice of the enfant terrible of French theatre was dubbed into Welsh.

In a country where literary endeavour has rarely strayed beyond the bounds of social realism this sudden overwhelming celebration of the experimental must have seemed somewhat, well, absurd.

Still, the 61 year old soldiered on and eventually at a ceremony in Cardiff Castle he received his hard-earned cash. The following morning he left for Paris.