I Went To The House But Did Not Enter
First person peculiar
This article is from 2008.
Edinburgh favourite Heiner Goebbels returns to the Festival with the world premier of his collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble, I Went to the House but Did Not Enter. Mark Fisher catches up with him
The scene is Lausanne, Switzerland where a fellow journalist and I have come to watch Heiner Goebbels’ Eraritjaritjaka in advance of the 2004 Edinburgh International Festival. The show, a collaboration with Amsterdam’s Mondriaan Quartet, is fantastic, but it leaves the two of us in a quandary: how to describe it without giving the game away? Because, in the middle of the performance, thanks to some multimedia trickery, actor André Wilms appears to leave the theatre, take a taxi and set off into the night-time city, continuing to talk in perfect synchronisation with the music before magically ending up back in the theatre. It is such a splendid theatrical surprise, it would be a shame to spoil it, yet it is almost impossible to talk about the show without alluding to it.
This year, I’m spared the dilemma because Goebbels is treating Edinburgh audiences to a world premiere. There are probably similar tricks up his sleeve, but he’s keeping quiet about them, promising nothing more concrete than visual surprises in a ‘staged concert’.
His title comes from the writings of Maurice Blanchot, an enigmatic French champion of 20th century literature. In novels such as The Madness of the Day, Blanchot made it deliberately unclear who was speaking, a characteristic shared with TS Eliot in The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and Samuel Beckett in Worstward Ho. Goebbels, a celebrated composer as well as a director, has set these pieces to music for the Hilliard Ensemble, the British classical vocal quartet.
‘Maurice Blanchot discovered Kafka for France and that’s a quality you’ll probably find in his own texts,’ he says. ‘I’ve read this text over and over again, and I’m not sure I really know what it’s about, though it always evokes strong images and seducing narratives. It’s a marvellous text in irritating our ideas of linearity.’
I Went to the House but Did Not Enter, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 473 2000, 28–30 Aug, 8pm, £10–£25.