Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The hour we knew nothing of each other By Peter Handke, translated by Meredith Oakes, Lyttelton Theatre, 6-Feb-2008 – Directed by James MacDonald

Before the play started, a man in front of me asked my neighbour (female and better looking) if there was a plot summary for this piece on the free cast list. I was slightly tempted to ask him, after we’d watched the play, whether he’d be able to put one together for future reference. If you want a plot, I suppose it is the comings and goings in a city square throughout a day. What that means is a large number of little vignettes, small stories (comical and tragical), familiar observations of people watching and a nice dollop of weirdness often including some fictional, historical, mythological or biblical figure. And whenever there was a lull in the proceedings one of a number of well put together young women would process across from upstage left to downstage right.
The city square was represented by sculptural, abstracted and slightly organic-looking office buildings around the three sides of the stage.
Describing the play becomes a little like trying to remember the contents of a conveyor as prizes pass in front of you – Actually I can’t remember if there was a cuddly toy, or whether it was a man dressed as a football mascot. Here are a few things that stuck in the mind:
Recurring characters such as a street cleaner (played by Mark Hadfield) who discovers the script for the play that he is in; a hiker (played by Richard Hope) who had constantly to empty sand and stones from his shoes and clothes; an annoying person (played by Jason Thorpe), possibly meant to be a small boy, a grown-up that acted like one or a representation of the spirit of annoyingness who spent his time imitating the actions of passers-by.
A business man emptying the pockets of his suit pulling out strange items until he finds a apple. One of the well put-together young women in a dress made from fragments of mirror and holding a large leaf with an eye-sized hole to cover her face. A looping line of old men, then teachers, then old soldiers made up of the same dozen or so actors. A couple sexually aroused watching a man collapse and die while the annoying man tried to imitate him. Abraham leading Isaac (who was carrying a convenient bush) across the stage, clutching a sacrificial dagger, Papageno getting mugged. A queue that almost spontaneously formed.
While I found this wordless parade highly enjoyable there was still a feeling at the back of my mind that it was all a bit insubstantial. It was like an endless supply of gourmet snacks and treats, while they take as much time and skill to prepare as a normal meal, you get the feeling that there’s a big feast that you are missing. There were so many characters and little stories that I never felt that I got to know any of them well or even at all.



Perhaps you could be so kind to point your reviewers
to some Handke sites, especially
http://www.handkelectures.freeservers.com [the drama lecture].
As once translator of most of Handke's plays and now Handke scholar
I detail some of the matters that these plays try to do.
Mel Gussow who did the first reviews, around 1970 of Handke's SELF ACCUSATION & MY FOOT MY TUTOR
had a good drift on it. Clive Barnes straddled the fence at RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE and froze in mid lake!
I believe that John Rockwell of the NY Times, too, has a clue that Handke might as easily be treated as a composer, rather than as a playwright
who makes a statement via a representation; the early pieces if they have a precedent would have one in Ionesco in
being purely playful. Their form is musical, which means that they are formalist. All music necessarily is,
As he matured Handke took on greater and greater challenges
THE HOUR WE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT EACH OTHER is Handke's summa of all his early work. Any number of your fine music critics
would realize as much.
It is not just a grab bag
full of images that you might have seen at a city square, but has a movement to a climax and then a denouement, it's intention is to make the audience see
more precisely by switching from one image to the other, which produces a mild state of hypnosis, with the end result that
your senses are cleaned and everything looks as though you were reborn, fresh. In that sense Handke is the successor to Brecht in producing non-Aristotelean catharses, which by riverbend and howth castle gets us back to the origin of theater.
Thus the title that no one seems to wonder about.
http://www.handkelectures.freeservers.com [the drama lecture]
It is also a transition to the later plays. Handke started to think about the play in the mid seventies and perhaps it was watching the coming and goings in a city square
that made him realize how magical that was and how any number of ancient themes and fairy tale characters might appear on it!

Member Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute and Society
this LYNX will LEAP you to all my HANDKE project sites and BLOGS:


"Sryde Lyde Myde Vorworde Vorhorde Vorborde" [von Alvensleben]

SCRIPTMANIA PROJECT MAIN SITE: http://www.handke.scriptmania.com
and 12 sub-sites

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