- noun a very large herbivorous animal with thick skin and either one horn or two horns, one behind the other, on a projecting part of its head above the nose and mouth
- (written as Rhinoceros)An absurdist satire by Eugène Ionesco thatwas first performed in 1959 in Paris. The story is set in a smallFrench town and centres upon the reluctant clerk Bérenger (acharacter from Ionesco's 1959 play The Killer), who is havinga drink in a café with his friend Jean when a rhinoceros thunderspast. Bérenger ignores this, but the next day rhinocerosesappear everywhere and even Jean turns into a vicious specimen. Whenhis girlfriend makes a similar transformation, Bérenger beginsto find the breed attractive. Soon he finds himself the last non-rhinoin the town, but bravely resists the temptation to conform.
The first London production opened in 1960 at the Royal CourtTheatre, later transferring to the Strand Theatre for a total of over100 performances. The part of Bérenger was played by Olivierin one of his rare ventures into contemporary drama. The leading ladywas originally Joan Plowright, who was to become Olivier's third wife.When Vivien Leigh, to whom he was still married, issued a statementin New York saying she was seeking a divorce, Plowright withdrew fromthe cast and Maggie Smith took over her role.
The Royal Court production was staged directed by OrsonWelles, who complained bitterly that Olivier was constantlyundermining his authority:He took every actor aside and said that I was misdirectingthem. He got them off in little groups and had little quiet rehearsals...
Several days before the premiere, Olivier asked Welles to leaveand took over the direction himself.