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Bald Prima-Donna


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AT: The Bald Soprano A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1950, Paris Pb: 1954 Tr: 1958 G: Drama in 1 act; French prose S: Middle-class English home, late 1940s C: 3m, 3fMr and Mrs Smith are sitting after an evening meal, which she describes to him in stilted phrases. He finds fault with the newspaper for not giving the ages of the newly born. They then discuss Bobby Watson, who died two years previously but whose death was announced only recently, and all of whose family members are called Bobby Watson. The Smiths are joined by Mr and Mrs Martin, who feel they have met each other somewhere and then realize that they live together. The Maid however assures the audience that they are not who they think they are. The Fire Chief, the Maid's boyfriend, arrives in search of a fire. An exchange of absurd proverbs reaches a frenetic climax. The lights go out, and when they come on again, the Martins are sitting alone where the Smiths were and begin repeating exactly the same dialogue as at the beginning.

AT: The Bald Soprano A: Eugène Ionesco Pf: 1950, Paris Pb: 1954 Tr: 1958 G: Drama in 1 act; French prose S: Middle-class English home, late 1940s C: 3m, 3f

Ionesco's first play established the elements of his absurdist drama: inconsequential dialogue (much of it inspired by an English language course); stereotypical characters; surprising leaps in logic; and grotesquely excessive reactions to the trivial (e.g. embarrassment over the Fire Chief's mention of ‘the bald prima-donna’). Underneath the playful theatrical treatment Ionesco expresses ‘the tragedy of language’ (that it is used to make social noises rather than to communicate) and the loss of humanity and individuality.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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