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The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

All life is here from the moment this suitably community rendering of Peter Handke’s epic of everyday human behaviour opens with the slow reveal of scurrying feet. The bodies they belong to dart this way and that, criss-crossing lives in motion in a hurry to get somewhere else.

With a cast of more than ninety volunteer performers, Wils Wilson and Janice Parker’s production of Meredith Oakes’ translation of a play made up of 46 pages of stage directions is a necessarily busy affair. Over almost ninety minutes – time is an elastic concept here -
more than 400 passers-by have their moment on the town square catwalk with a multitude of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them entrances and exits. Some are inconsequential, some more fantastical, as a million little stories are caught in flight. Beyond the levity, there are hints of more invasive anxieties, so the sound of what could be either gunshots or fireworks accompanies images of incarceration that allow the audience to imagine the worst.

This is people-watching in extremis, the visual equivalent of eavesdropping and making presumptions based on a sliver of a story. Seemingly ordinary lives take mental back-flips into fantasy realms in a way that at times is akin to Mr Benn stepping into Westworld by way of last night’s prime time news. In this sense Wilson and Parker’s rendering of Handke’s play is as much a glimpse into the collective unconscious as the outer world it drifts through using a cartoon-like array of possibilities.

The whole thing is driven by Michael John McCarthy’s score, a jaunty mix of palm court strings and baroque chamber jazz that colours in the show’s light and shade. As people go on no matter what, the whole becomes a life-affirming sketchbook of how we live now, tomorrow and the day after.

The Herald, June 4th 2018

Ends


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