Ionesco's daughter brings down the curtain in Romania

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Europe Editor

The daughter of Eugene Ionesco, the Romanian-born playwright, has banned performances of his plays in Romania because the country's rulers do not respect human rights. Marie-France Ionesco, a French citizen, has held the copyright to her father's plays since he died in March 1994.

It is not the first time Romanians have been deprived of the pleasure of seeing Ionesco's works performed on stage. In the 1980s the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu banned Ionesco's plays, apparently fearing that their subversive humour might put ideas into the heads of Romania's long-suffering people.

Ionesco was born in the southern Romanian town of Slatina in 1912 and worked as a lecturer and critic in Bucharest before settling in Paris in 1938. He achieved international fame with his first short play, The Bald Prima Donna, produced in Paris in 1950 and still running in a small theatre on the Left Bank.

Though he is best remembered as a founder of the Theatre of the Absurd, some of his full-length dramas contain powerful political messages of a kind that proved distinctly unamusing to Romania's Communist authorities. Plays such as Rhinoceros and The Killer are intended to warn audiences of the dangers of totalitarianism and conformist political behaviour.

Ionesco was a resolute opponent of Communism and, after the fall of the Ceausescu dictatorship in December 1989, expressed concern that Romania was not developing effective democratic institutions. Shortly before his death, he let it be known he did not want his plays to be performed in Romania until human rights were genuinely respected.

However, theatre directors in Bucharest said there had been a number of private stagings of his plays in the past year, apparently mounted without his daughter's explicit permission. She is now trying to close the loophole. Romanian theatre workers said they hoped to contact Ionesco's daughter and persuade her to change her mind. "Of course we are disappointed, but it is the law of copyright," said a theatre-union official, Ion Caramitru.

Meantime, plans to take a Romanian production of Jacques, a Ionesco work of 1951, to Belgium have been postponed.