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The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other review at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum – ‘Engaging play with huge community cast’

Cast of The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Aly Wight Cast of The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Aly Wight
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People-watching is recreated as theatre in director Wils Wilson’s engaging production of Peter Handke’s dialogue-free play The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other.

Wilson is always one to play at the edge of what constitutes theatre – her recent work with the Lyceum includes immersive play Cockpit and Karine Polwart’s musical meditation Wind Resistance – and here she finds form and meaning from a script that is no more than 450 characters crossing the stage, played by a 90-strong community cast.

At times they march alone, sometimes in groups or as a mass flow of character types. It is like sitting in a cafe in the square of an unknown town, witnessing the ebb and flow of a routine day. Office workers, tourists, those visiting the cemetery or off to a wedding – each has their own story.

Lit by Kai Fischer as if for a photoshoot, the flow is narrated by Michael John McCarthy’s electronic music and succeeds in creating a bigger picture of humanity and who we are.

Artistic director David Greig’s vision of the Lyceum as a place for Edinburgh to reflect on itself is reinforced in Wilson’s use of the community cast. It is to the directors’ credit that they have brought out spontaneous, relaxed performances from those with varied performance experience.

Some clearly have acting ability. A man who seems to be portraying a dog provides intended comedy; a road sweeper brushing newspapers against the wind a long moment of focus.

There are surreal vignettes, historical characters, moments of magical illusion and scenes full of drama. But it is the mundane moments that tell the biggest stories, particularly in the little interactions between repeated characters.

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Perceptive understanding of pace ensures Peter Handke's dialogue-free play is more than people-watching