I Went To The House But I Did Not Enter
Musical reflection of literary masters
This article is from 2008.
There has been no shortage of theatre that examines the disaffection and atomisation of modern life over the last century, but it’s less common to find a piece that selects four noted 20th century authors to explore the theme, then translates their work into music. If anyone can fuse all this into a show, itʼs Heiner Goebbels. On this visit to the EIF, he collaborates with male vocal group The Hilliard Ensemble to present works by TS Eliot, Maurice Blanchot, Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett.
The pieces here are performed with varying degrees of certainty. Goebbels’ version of ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrockʼ transports Eliot’s melancholic mental journey to an all-grey set, where a dining room is carefully packed up, then unpacked, with little discernible difference but for the kind of triviality that obsesses and represses its narrator, here sung by all four ensemble members. The title piece, adapted from theorist, novelist and philosopher Blanchot is by far the most successful, taking place in a modern brick house, where the story of a random act of violence is told through various windows amid the random noises of a suburban night. The Beckett, *3Worstwood Ho*2, never the most approachable of the Irish writer’s texts, is rendered no less opaque by being entirely sung and set in a dingy old-fashioned hotel room.
Klaus Grunbergʼs sets are ravishing, and some of the visual aspects of the piece will live with you long afterwards, while the intonations of the Hilliard Ensemble are at times very effective, the lost spirituality of the society represented being brought out by the Gregorian style here and there. So, too, the losing battle fought by humankind with modern technology sometimes gives the piece a humorous edge, but at times it’s hard to see why these pieces need to be rendered into song. This is a patchy night out, but one which does feature some striking images.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, 473 2000, 8pm, until Sat 30 Aug, £10-£25.