I Went To The House But Did Not Enter

Star rating: *****

HEINER Goebbels doesn't do things by halves. In looking at failure through four key twentieth century texts by T S Eliot, Maurice Blanchot, Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett, most directors would have opted for black-clad austerity and existential despair. Instead, Goebbels utilises an immaculate and unashamed sense of European grandiosity to create a magnificent study of the daily grind that's light enough in tone to resemble the most delicately drawn of sitcom sketches rather than the staged concert in three tableaux it's somewhat dryly dressed up as.
Key to this is the presence of The Hilliard Ensemble, whose formal delivery of Goebbels's musical settings of each text is offset by the dramatic context in which they are placed.
For Eliot's The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, they become a grey quartet who silently and meticulously empty a drab suburban living room, then, as with a Two Ronnies routine, sombrely fill it up again.
The interpretation of Blanchot's La Folie Du Jour is closer in tone to Tony Hancock, as solitary men in rooms look out on a world soundtracked by barking dogs, police sirens and birds in flight. For them, with their entire lives in a state of domestic torpor, it's not the noise that matters, but the silences between.
A brief interlude of Kafka's Der Ausflug Ins Gebirge moves into Last of the Summer Wine territory, before Beckett's Worstward Ho leaves home entirely for a hotel room slideshow.
The Hilliard take what is already an incantation of mortality into some kind of collective triumph. With sumptuous design by Klaus Grunberg, Goebbels has created an irresistible parlour diversion that is epic in scale and imbued with a gallows humour at its heart that's to die for.

Neil Cooper
The Herald (GB), 30 August 2008