Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Play's the Thing - Even If No Words are Spoken by Anyone
by Eleanor Tylbor

To say that Austrian playwright, Peter Handke is a man of few words is truly an understatement.

In fact he has written a play entitled, "The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other" to be performed at the National Theatre from March 31 to April 12 for 30 performances. What makes his play "special" is that not one word will be spoken by the actors.

For 1 hour and 40 minutes, 450 characters will be silent.

According to a blurb on the National Theatre site:


The play is best described: "For a moment, a bright, empty town square. And then a figure darts across, and another and another – businesspeople, roller-bladers, a cowboy, several street-sweepers, a halfdressed bride, a film crew, a line of old men, a tourist, a beauty in a mirrored dress, Abraham and Isaac, a family of refugees, a fool – more and more people, the bizarre and the humdrum, fleetingly connected by proximity alone."

The idea apparently came to Handke as he sat at a cafe on an Italian piazza watching strangers come and go. Even if not a word is spoken, the play is not sound-less. The silence is punctuated by snatches of music, the occasional scream and the recorded sounds of an aeroplane or workmen drilling.

A National Theatre spokeswoman said: "It is a great piece of work, challenging and something that we should be doing. Tickets are selling well - not like hotcakes, but they are doing well. It is appealing to younger people. We think our more traditional audiences will wait until the reviews."

If this is a success, I shall re-read and re-edit my plays with the possibility of eliminating the dialogue. Perhaps I'll re-name the wedding play, "Make Me a Wedding and Let's Keep It Between Ourselves." Given that it's a comedy, there will be lots of body language and gesturing. Since my play has a mere 9 characters, it shouldn't be too difficult to fill the various roles.

If anyone attends this play, please pass on your impressions and review.

Writers & Friends

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