The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other
By Peter Handke
Translated by Meredith Oakes
Directed by Patrick Nolan
Featuring NIDA Graduating Students
Performed at Customs House Square, Circular Quay, Sydney
August 23rd 2010 8:00 p.m.
By: Peter Handke
Director: Patrick Nolan
Associate Director: Simone O’Brien
Translated by Meredith Oakes
Featuring NIDA graduating students of 2010
Production and Costume Designer: Sarah-Jane McAllan
Co-Costume Designer: Jamie Cranney
Lighting Designer: Rachel Smith
Sound Designers: Benjamin Ross Brockman, Lee-Anne Roza, Sarah Stait
AV Designers: Alex Duffy, Nicholas Rayment
No words, at all? No dialogue? That is what I heard about this performance. The play is written by Australian writer Peter Handke where he “describes the life of a town square simply by listing the comings and goings of various characters.” The pamphlet I received at the start also described the play to be “revealing the poetry of the mundane” and “also exploring the history of civilization in the process”.
The stage was set up at the Customs House Square in Circular Quay. The seats were black, comfortable, and arranged in a U pattern facing the Customs Building. Each section was stadium style with 6 rows back and 11 seats across seating about 60 people. There were 6 sections in all. When we walked in on the backs of each seat were a pair of headphones. When we placed the headphones on our heads, piano and violin classical music was playing for our entertainment.
An announcement was made over the loud speaker for all the patrons to make sure they had their headphones on and then the music went silent. We next heard birds chirping and leafs blowing in the wind.
Between the seat sections were 6 areas where the 27 actors could enter onto the stage. An actor portraying a business man came from the far left corner and walked across the square to the opposite corner and was gone out of sight. Actors and actresses portraying hundreds of different types of people continued to walk, run, crawl, skip, bike, and rollerblade across the square. Characters such as the student, the pregnant lady, the fireman, the homeless person, the Asian tourist couple taking pictures, the cowboy, an army crew, puss and boots, royalty, refugees, etc were portrayed. Some characters where funny such as the group of characters playing a film crew. Many different walks of life crossed the stage. Each actor, minus the fool, played several different characters. My favorite characters were the birdman carrying a cage on his back and the portrayal of the Batman and Robin characters. My absolute favorite character was the fool who wore a Kevin 07 t-shirt and maintained his character throughout the play. He mimicked and mocked several characters weaving in and out of the stage always coming and creating comic relief.
Up above the columns in front of the Customs Building was a second location for the actors to walk across in their characters. I did not see any significance of any underlying meaning to this other than to add interest to the unexciting walking through the square.
I found the concept of the play beautiful and interesting. I feel the author was trying to portray life as you see it every day. The different people and their lives walking along the same street, going through their routine and the obstacles they cross. A few characters were meant to be from a different time than the present. These included cave men and women as well as people from the early part of the first century. I could not draw a connection but I could see the significance of including these characters. I feel it was important to draw the association between people regardless of time or socio-economic background. I also can appreciate the location of the play in front of the Customs House Building where many different people walk every day.
I felt the play was executed well but left me feeling that the author and actors could have dug deeper. Not to sound ungrateful, because I think the students did a fine job, however it was obvious to me that they were just students and have much to learn in their careers.
The play was performed completely out of expression of inner thoughts and emotions. The actors were only able to express themselves visually through body movements and facial expressions. What made the play special to me was the lack of dialogue; however towards the end of the play the actors began speaking a few lines in gibberish and had several vocal outbursts of emotion. I felt that this sudden communication of sound ruined the play for me. The fact that the actors were silent made it creative and innovative. The ability to use other ways of creatively giving the audience feeling was most impressive. The one-act plot-less play in which I got to know these actors lasted longer than the title implied. I would recommend to friends to sit, watch and listen to this play and reflect on their thoughts on humanity in their day to day living. Although the acting and play itself did not impress me much, the stage management and costumes, in my opinion, deserve most of the credit.