The hour of inspiration

Jun 1 2018 | By More

First look at The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other

Closing out the Lyceum’s current season, Austrian playwright Peter Handke’s The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other has over 450 characters but no words.

Not surprisingly, the cast for Wils Wilson’s production is vast. Ninety community performers – and one dog – making it the largest ever cast to grace the Lyceum stage. Some are familiar with the Lyceum and some have never seen a production there before.

Elsie Horobin in The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other. Pic Aly Wight

“Wils is a total renegade rule breaker – not even time itself can control her!” Æ was told when enquiring tentatively whether The Hour would in fact last 60 minutes. In the event it is more like an hour and half.

Wilson, who returns to direct at The Lyceum following the critically-acclaimed immersive production Cockpit and Karine Polwart’s celebrated musical musing Wind Resistance, describes directing this play as a “once in a lifetime experience”.

“The play takes place in a city square,” she says. “Over the course of an hour, 450 characters pass by. Not a single word is spoken but hundreds of stories are told. Shifting from the real to the surreal, from the ridiculous to the intensely moving, it is a hymn to our shared humanity, to our desperate need to know one another and to the impossibility of doing so.

“It’s a unique theatrical proposition and I’m thrilled – and slightly terrified – to be given the chance to direct it.”

Narrated by music

Without any dialogue, the play is narrated by music, composed for this production by Michael John McCarthy, who has just been awarded a grant from Creative Scotland’s open project fund to record the accompanying soundtrack album.

Seanetta Allsass in The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other. Pic: Aly Wight

It is the unspoken interactions that animate the play, and Wilson has brought in choreographer Janice Parker to direct the movement. In a lengthy chat on Gareth K Vile’s Dramaturgy Database, Parker goes into more detail about the process of making the play and her thoughts behind it.

“It is a kind of dream play,” says Parker. “It switches off the dominance of the verbal and switches on the more nuanced experiences of the visual image, our non-verbal behaviours, the properties of objects and our imaginative dreaming. We already know how significant the non-verbal is to our way of knowing each other we just don’t necessarily know that consciously or give it any value.”

Besides being the largest ever Lyceum cast, Parker believes that it is the largest yet to have performed the play. What is certain, is that the size of the cast has allowed her and the rest of the production team to work closely with the script as it is written.

open interpretation

At times, it is a clear set of instructions, at others, Handke is more generous with his invitation for open interpretation in time and in space. Which allows the team to respond in ways that can involve a large number volume of people, or just one. It is these two energies, sitting side-by-side, which parker says increases the potential and possibility of the show.

David Clarkson and Elsie Horobin in The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other. Pic: Aly Wight

Regarding the particular members of the cast, Wilson and Parker consciously chose to have no auditions and to work with whoever turned up.

“We took people through a process that allowed them to decide whether or not this production and process was for them,” says Parker. “They chose us, not the other way around. I love the boldness and audacity of this. We had no idea even how many people we would have, which meant Wils and I couldn’t fully plan how we were going to work with the script until rehearsals were upon us.

“I really believe in this alchemical approach. We trust that these are the people whose energy and presence shape and hone what the performance will become. It is thrilling as a director to work in this way. I never audition. I love that risk, the honesty of it and the truth of the collaboration and the mutual ownership of that.”

With only four performances, this is a grab it while you can experience for Lyceum audiences. And probably is a once in a lifetime chance to witness such a collaborative production.


The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other
Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street EH3 9AX. Phone booking: 0131 248 4848
Thursday 31 May – Saturday 2 June 2018
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2pm.

Tickets and details:

Review published here: ★★★★☆ Contains multitudes.

Lyceum on Facebook: @lyceumtheatre
Twitter: @lyceumtheatre.

The full text of Janice Parker’s dramaturgical chat with Gareth K Vile is here:

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other cast. Pic: Aly Wight


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