Edinburgh Festival 1994: Without any word of mouth

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The Independent Culture
FROM Peter Handke's title, The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, you might expect another evening of verbal punishment by the author of Insulting the Audience. As it turns out, though, this smash-hit from Berlin's Schaubuhne am Lehniner Platz (directed by Luc Bondy) is a wordless event, in which 40 actors evoke some 400 characters in 90 minutes flat. The programme book for the Berlin production opens with the image of an empty car whose windscreen-wipers mysteriously start up; and ends with the maxim, 'What power things have when they befall us by accident.' Like other Germanic emigres (Heine, Tucholsky), the Paris-based Handke begins as a people-watcher: giving us a Martian's-eye view of crowds of tourists, a Lufthansa flight crew, and assorted joggers, netball players, roller-skaters, bikers and muggers. But the mystery car is also there, along with a mobile Pharaonic jackal; and by degrees the passing crowd becomes infiltrated with biblical characters, ghosts, masked comedians, and (no suppressing Germanic reflexes) the figure of death. Find your own meanings, and relish the complex rhythms and visual wit. (Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 031-225 5756, 31 Aug-3 Sept.)

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