Review – The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, National Theatre

Tuesday 12 February 2008
  • 27 actors
  • 450 characters
  • No dialogue

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

  • 2 Whingers
  • 1 bottle of wine before the show with…
  • 2 very agreeable vegetarian fajitas at Los Iguanas
  • 2 guests (Neil and Andrew Field)
  • 1 inquisition at the National Theatre Lyttelton cloakroom as to which show we were seeing
  • 3 pounds for the programme
  • 0 sightings of Baz Bamigboye for a change
  • 6 minutes late curtain-up
  • 0 intervals
  • 0 opportunities to visit the toilet
  • 4 increasingly impatient bladders
  • 1 set inspired by de Chirico
  • 1 baguette nibbled on stage plus
  • 2 ice creams consumed and
  • 3 apples and
  • 1 Mars bar
  • 1 actor (Jason Thorpe) playing the same irritating character throughout
  • 2 men with silly things on their heads (a child’s cot and a tree stump-don’t ask)
  • 1 balloon on stage (don’t directors ever listen to the Whingers?)
  • 2 of Phil’s signature sneezes
  • 1 near-apocalypse/false ending
  • N0thing in it as funny as the woman behind Andrew evidently found it
  • 1 idea by Peter Handke repeated over-and-over-and-over-again
  • 2 votes of support for revoking any prizes awarded to said Handke
  • 65 minutes too long
  • 20 minutes of willing it to end
  • 23 – number of times Phil looked at his watch
  • 493 – number of times a person crossed from one wing to the other before Andrew gave up counting
  • 1 reason (please give us) anyone might pay to see this?
  • 0 ideas what it was about
  • 1 “hour we knew nothing of each other”
  • 95 minutes’ actual duration
  • 1 complaint to Weights & Measures on the grounds of wilful misrepresentation
  • 94 minutes wondering mostly how many props there were and how the costume changes were organised
  • 3 minutes collecting cloaks
  • 4 minutes discussing it after over…
  • …1 more bottle of wine
  • 10/10 for intellectual rigour
  • 2/10 for enjoyment
  • 2/10 for engagement
  • 1 show the critics will admire
  • 1 show Quentin Letts will hate
  • 4 stars – Phil predicts – Time Out magazine will award it.
  • 2 Whingers now rather regretting not clambering onto the stage during the last few minutes and saying a word – any word
  • ½ an idea to go again and do so

19 Responses to “Review – The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, National Theatre”

  1. Kieron Says:

    so can i get this straight, there was absolutely no talking in this play at all. not even one word?? there were 27 actors and not one of them said a word for the whole show. if this is the case what did they do for the whole show, and what was the show about and more importantly how did the whingers manage to keep quiet?????????

  2. It beggars belief, doesn’t it.? Apparently Herr Handke likes to “deconstruct” the theatre by taking out the things which make it theatre (plot, characters, dialogue and so on) and leaving something very clever but unrewarding to the hoi palloi.

    We may be oversimplifying his approach somewhat. But not much.

  3. I’m seeing this tomorrow, though I rather wish I’d come along with you. I am however currently entertaining myself by thinking of the best word you chaps could have said to pep things up…

  4. Me, I’m wild with jealousy that I can’t see it. But hey. I love Handke’s work.

  5. Perhaps you could be so kind to point your reviewers
    to some Handke sites, especially [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. [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]

    and 12 sub-sites

  6. webcowgirl Says:

    Awesome, I SO won by not going out at all Monday (we returned the opera tickets because even if I think Benjamin Britten is good for my artistic soul, 3 1/2 hours of same is too much for my fragile mind to bear – and went for a big round of Japanese food and piles of sake at Yoisho instead).

  7. Simone Says:

    That’s a brilliant way of writing the review guys. I am seeing this next week.

  8. Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

    More installation than play.
    Think I’d rather sit in a cafe on a town square (drinking wine of course) and watch the real thing.
    Hopefully I wouldn’t feel inspired to create any theatre.

  9. Jake Arnott Says:

    Had to watch a video of a student production of this at uni. Not enjoyable. Made slightly more entertaining by watching in fast forward but only mildly so.

  10. michael sharpe Says:

    What’s the betting that Susannah Clapp will love it?

  11. I, inevitably, quite liked it (cue sound of no one at all being surprised). Still, it takes all sorts, etc. I can quite understand why it wouldn’t be up everyone’s street.

  12. I went to see a Handke play in Vienna in about 1976 and remember vowing Never Again. So all hail to the Whingers for sitting through this to the end. (Guess you had no choice).

  13. webcowgirl Says:

    Did you SEE the writeup of this in the Guardian today? I should have taken it home for the next time my drinks need a chilling – it would frost an average glass in seconds flat!

  14. Ian Says:

    Saw it last night, curtain was 15 minutes late going up!

    I think it was quite good, and if it had ended after the “Cloverfield” bit, it would have been much better. As it was, the additional 20 minutes at the end was really too seat-numbing, especially as it was all stuff we had already seen.

    Love the site by the way

  15. Kathleen Says:

    I just saw your post and had to comment, because I actually found an article about that show online and posted about it on my own blog. It sounded intriguing. But as you clearly described through your (quite) humorous list of numbers, it must’ve been hard to understand without any talking or plot. Were there separate scenes? Was there really NO talking? How much did you pay for this? Thanks for making such a great post! Love the blog, hopefully you can check out mine sometime !


  16. @ Alison – Well, it’s easy for you to say that what with your being 12,000 miles away.

    @ Michael Roloff – We will do as you suggest and send along our finest music critics.

    @ Kathleen – Only “quite” humourous? Oh well. Honestly, no separate scenes, no talking. We paid £10. Thanks for your kind words – we’ve added you to our blogroll.

  17. Phil M Says:

    I have just returned from The HOUR we knew nothing of each other, I’m a very seasoned theatre goer, theatre is pretty much my life and I am sorry to say this was the worst production I’ve ever seen. The production was so fundamentally flawed on every level that I do not know where to start. 27 actors, huge and pointless expense, think of how that money could help develop a new exciting company or fund the next Punchdrunk project. This production was an insult to young, aspiring theatre makers like myself.

    Apart from that it was great!

    Phil M

  18. Phil E Says:

    Agree totally with Phil M (no relation, though very happy to have him in the world of Phils). This is totally wrong for the National, in my opinion; it belongs in Edinburgh, or as an installation, and it needs to be MUCH, MUCH shorter and MUCH more daring. A case of the Emperor’s New Clothes: it is not profound (indeed, it’s disturbingly shallow), it is devoid of dramatic tension after the initial engagement wears off, and it plays like a GCSE rehearsal room exercise writ large.

    The only play I’ve seen where the audience’s reaction was more interesting than what was happening on stage. (Go on, tell me that was Handke’s intention, go on, go on.) I ended up counting the number of people in the stalls rather than watch any more of this drivel. The answer was 535, if you’re interested (though I dozed off a couple of times).

    And as Phil M says, a huge insult to more talented, but less acclaimed, theatre practitioners, who could have crammed ten times as much entertainment and meaning into half the time, for a fraction of the insulting expense.

    Phil E

    P.S. Actually I got a hysterical fit of giggles about halfway through about how bad it was, which sustained me to the end. Childish, yes; but it made the loss of £38 for two tickets more bearable… 🙂

  19. Farris Says:

    I love physical theatre, I do not think a play necessarily needs characters, plot or dialogue. It does however need some ideas.
    This production is a cynical, cliche ridden and ponderous dogs egg.
    As for the comments of Michale Roloff, I would love to have seen the play he was describing, this is no relation, it was far too poorly executed to resemble anything musically, except for a kazoo trapped in the anus of a 400lb gorilla.

    Avoid, avoid, avoid

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