Via "In February, the National Theatre will present the UK professional premiere of Peter Handke's 1996 play, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other. It is the first major London production of one of Handke's works for nearly 20 years; the last at the National was the verse-drama The Long Way Round (also known as Walk About the Villages in Michael Roloff's translation) given a Cottosloe run in 1989."

Readers Comments

  1. This is Peter Handke's first major London production since 1989, and if this is typical of his work it should be at least 20 years before London produces another of his plays.

    This is fringe theatre at best and has no place at The National Theatre. It runs for 1 hour 45 minutes with no interval and this is a good ploy. If the play had an interval the auditorium would be empty for the second half.

    The press performance is 13th February and I would be surprised if this production managed to continue much beyond that. It is testiment to the reputation of The National Theatre that such an obscure play could fill the theatre on the first night.

    I watched for the first 15 minutes wondering when the play was going to change from people just walking backwards and forwards across the stage. An actor would occassionally stop in the middle of the stage whilst other actors continued to pass in front or behind. The boredom was only broken when the pace of a passing actor changed, such as when a jogger passed across. The bad news is that nothing really changes through the extent of the play. Just a procession of the same actors passing across the stage dressed differently most times. Sometimes the same character appears again and to relieve the monotony I found myself trying to spot when this repetition occurred.

    From time to time there was a ripple of laughter from the audience, but it was almost out of embarrassment rather than anything funny happening. I thought at first that I was perhaps missing the point or that the essence of the play was passing me by, but the comments overheard as I left the auditorium at the end (yes I managed to stay until the end) backed up my opinion: "that was an hour and a half too long", "I can see why there was no interval", "what a total waste of an evening", "there's no way this will finish its run". Most telling was when I overheard a young man apologising to his girlfriend for putting her through such a dire performance.

    I felt most sorry for the actors as there were some very good performers, including several that I had seen recently in Noel Coward's "Present Laughter" which was an amazing production.

    I think I would have had more entertainment by sitting on Waterloo Bridge and watching the people pass by on the embankment. If I hadn't been in the centre of a row, making it difficult to get out, I would not have lasted until the final curtain.

    Maybe I've missed the point and just don't understand "art". I'll be interested in reading the press reviews next week.

  2. Lillian Shapiro Friday 08 February 2008

    I agree that the National's production is boring, dull and absurd (but not in a good way!), but that's not how this play should be. I saw it at the 1994 Edinburgh Festival, directed by Luc Bondy, and it was very different from the gloomy, depressing, and ridiculous performance currently on at the National. After seeing the play at the Edinburgh Festival, The Guardian's critic, Michael Billington, described it as "a spectacle of mesmerizing beauty." That was exactly how I felt about it, so much so that I was really looking forward to seeing it again at the National. What a disappointment. The current director seems to be from the "art-of-coarse-acting" school. Mr. Bondy did not want much acting from the performers. Even though there are many moments of humor, some of slapstick and a few of sentimentality, the director was eager for the cast to appear as normal as possible.

    The National has done this interesting play a great dis-service.

  3. The characters are lacking in interest and the acting is actually poor (by National Theatre standards very poor).

    As very regular theatre goers we see everything at the National and have never left before the end of a performance but after 65 minutes we knew it was not going to get any better. There are some advantages to being on the end of a row.

  4. I am so glad to have read the above comments as I thought I was going mad, especially after reading such good reviews everywhere. It was appalling!!! It wasn't theatre, it was a group of people walking across stage in different costumes. We wanted to leave but unfortunatley had to sit in the middle of a row. I cannot describe why it was so bad as I wouldn't know where to start. The National cannot charge that kind of money for something that bad. I'm still fuming about it. There was no theatricality in it at all!!!!!

  5. I thought it was a wonderful performance and even the slapstick comedy that I don't usually like, made me laugh.

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