Leaders are everywhere: in school, in play, in society. There is a difference between a leader who has taken the right to decide over someone else and a leader who has been granted that right. Have you chosen your leaders, or have they chosen themselves?
Eugène Ionesco’s play The Leader (Le Maître) was written in post-war Paris, where many artists gathered and sought new expressions in response to the war. The Leader is partly about our ability to be deceived, but Ionesco was also inspired by the absurdity and comedy of human language and behaviour.
Everyone is waiting for the Leader to arrive. The enthusiastic Announcer eagerly describes the Leader to two admirers and a young couple in love. The announcer is the only one who sees the Leader and therefore tells the admirers how to behave and where to place themselves. The enamoured couple seem to have never met before and do not know each other’s names, but immediately decide to get married.
The Announcer talks about how the Leader shakes hands with people, pats small children on the head or cuddles with a hedgehog. The excitement increases as the Leader gets closer, but also the confusion over what is actually happening. When the Leader finally comes in, it turns out he has no head! Oh no! But they all seem happy anyway. Or maybe someone will think again…