Peter Handke (Trans. Meredith Oakes), The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other

Review in Issue 20-2 | Summer 2008

Set on a stage-set of a town square, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other is, in case you missed the tagline, a play for 450 characters with a cast of 27. We see their journeys across the square, or their brief activities within it, seldom seeing the same character twice. There is some sense of how much fun it must have been for Handke to write. Even if the play’s inventiveness is not itself a marvel, the breadth of the characters and the variousness of their inchoate narratives maintains a low threshold of interest and attention: a man furiously chases a girl, a woman in an evening dress walks slowly forward with a broad green leaf obscuring her face, someone dies.

Unfortunately the cast don’t really cut it as physical performers. It’s all right when they’re doing the strange or extreme characters — when they have on distracting costumes — but elsewhere they don’t find truth in the everyday (with one exception: two strangers walk past each other and their hands brush…). The spirit of the piece isn’t invidious or false, but is held back by the obvious rigidity of its own choreography, a mismatch for the fluid possibilities it is trying, by example, to suggest. It is also too long (1hr and 45mins) and when near the end it tries to shift modes, stretching its few instances of surrealism out to encompass all the characters in a metaphorical landscape, it is without the grace or poetry to make that vision real.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Feb 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 20-2
p. 31