Few institutions can gauge the mood of the public with the accuracy and cultural relevancy of the theatre. Absurdist plays once dominated that institution in the mid-20th century to highlight a period of civil unrest and social anxiety. Productions of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead were popping up everywhere, much to the chagrin of traditionalists that abhorred the Theatre of the Absurd.
As that era ended absurdist theatre left but it did leave quite the legacy as both major and small-size theatres across the world continued to carry absurdist plays. More recently there has been a revival of absurdist theatre in Ireland, Greece, Pakistan, and South Korea. As these countries adapt to the madness of a new era, defined by mass uprising, economic downturns, austerity measures, and civil unrest, they will find reality can be quite absurd. So whether it is Mujtaba Haider Zaidi’s Graveyard Flowers in Pakistan or Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman in Dublin, Tehran, and Seoul, or Lenin El-Ramly’s The Prisoner in Cairo and Copenhagen, absurdist theatre offers a glimpse of peace amongst the madness. Yet in life, we tend to ignore peace when there is no madness.