Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

27/10/2015 - 31/10/2015

Production Details

Arithmetic leads to philology, and philology leads to crime. 

Written in 1950 by Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco, The Lesson is regarded as one of the most importantworks in the Theatre of the Absurd. Using theatrical and allegorical techniques, Ionesco addresses the concept of knowledge as power through an absurdist pseudocouple dynamic in this psychologically thrilling comedy.

A young female student arrives at the private residence of an elderly male professor for her titular tutorage. As language devolves into non-sequitur dialogue, a sense of menace develops, resulting in a dramatic shift, and an inevitable and literally unforeseeable twist.

Starring Natasha Daniel (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet),
Mustaq Missouri (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Mourning After), and
Donogh Rees (Sister Anzac, Not Psycho).

See the Basement Theatre main-stage transformed into a medical ward in this rarely produced theatrical genre written by one of the foremost figures in French Avant-garde theatre.

Directed by Matt Baker (Mo & Jess Kill Susie, An Unseasonable Fall of Snow), known for his detailed and effective direction.

Designed by Christine Urquhart (The Non-Surgeon’s Guide to the Appendectomy, Not Pyscho), whose designs have taken Auckland by storm, this production will employ a medical-horror design to evoke the symptomatic progression of the play’s absurdist conventions.

“…a fabulous unravelling of the personal psyche.” – Keeping Up With New Zealand

“…reveals itself to be brilliance…” – The Lumiere Reader

“…an intriguing psychological study of the innermost private depths of the human condition…” – Theatreview

“…this is for audiences wanting a shot of adrenaline.” – New Zealand Herald

The Lesson plays
Basement Theatre: Lower Greys Ave, Auckland,
Performances: Tuesday 27th October – Saturday 31st October, 8pm
Tickets: $20 – 25 (no booking fee)
Tickets available through iTicket – (09) 361 1000 or 

Theatre ,

This way madness lies

Review by Heidi North 28th Oct 2015

The Lesson by Eugène Ionesco is a lesser-known work from the theatre of the absurd movement. This production, directed by Matt Baker, is an excellent example of this type of theatre.

Written in 1951, and one of Ionesco’s earlier works, The Lesson revolves around The Pupil (Natasha Daniel) who arrives at the house of The Professor (Mustaq Missouri). Despite his sinister sexual overtones, The Professor genuinely seems to want to help his pupil, fostering her sense of achievement ­­– until she begins to fail his questions.

The whole lesson swerves wildly away from The Pupil from that point, she’s helpless but has to keep listening – and despite the warnings from the Maid (Donogh Rees), there is no stopping till the whole thing is through.

It’s not an easy watch, or a simple night out. Rather, as Baker says, the play bombarded him the first time he read it and similarly the audience is bombarded by this production. The sound (Sam Mence), lighting (Amber Molloy) and set (Christine Urquhart) designs add an apt dimension of horror to the proceedings.

It’s not comfortable, but Ionesco’s clever black humour – you’re hanging out for the fabulously droll Maid’s ‘interruptions’ – and Baker’s tight direction keeps the production from going too far off the rails. And it’s a wonderful thing to be treated to a slick production of a theatre piece that isn’t trying to do anything rather than be true to its own form.

The Lesson questions the very essence of communication between people in positions of power and their students – exposing the falsity in our lust for lessons. Craving explanations and neat summations on how we should live and what we should choose to know from those we hold as knowledgeable – professors, teachers, prophets, even politicians – is, Ionesco warns, madness.

Is this ‘lesson’ still relevant in 2015, almost 65 years after the play was first written? At the risk of being overly prescriptive, the answer is: yes. 


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