dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other review at Lyttelton National Theatre London

by -

It’s not easy spending an hour watching people you know nothing of – and 105 minutes is even more demanding.

Experimental European writer Peter Handke’s 1992 creation is a play without words, but unlike Matthew Bourne’s production of that name it is also one without an overarching story or recognisable characters.

Hundreds of random passers-by walk, run, crawl, cycle and rollerblade across a nondescript town square, in an epic undertaking that at first has the appeal of a Cartier-Bresson painting brought to life.

There’s a sense that all human emotion and experience can be distilled into these 30 second journeys – whether it’s vanity in the skateboarder who tries desperately to regain his cool after toppling over, or despair on the face of a businessman who reaches breaking point in an embarrassingly public way.

That universality and timelessness is underlined with the addition of various mythical and religious figures such as Moses, who wander in the midst of the banal and extraordinary as naturally as fellow shoppers.

But potentially touching moments are too laboured to be truly poignant – a girl crying juxtaposed with the laughter of teenagers playing hide and seek, for example – and Handke too often relies on cheap visual gags – female office workers kicking a football in heels, pensioners fencing with their walking sticks.

Forty-five minutes in, the novelty of people-watching has worn off, the hunger for a narrative is gnawing at you and even an apocalyptic climax can’t fill the void. At least if you watch the world go by in the NT cafe, there’s coffee to keep you going.

Production Information

Lyttelton, National Theatre, London, February 13-March 5

Author
Peter Handke
Director
James Macdonald
Producer
National Theatre
Cast includes
Susan Brown, Jessie Burton, Pip Carter, Paul Chesterton, Lisa Dillon
Running time
1hr 45mins

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
^