I mentioned last time a parallel between two disparate things which seemed to me more than a coincidence. One was an example which Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka used to articulate his idea of the behavioural (as opposed to geographical) environment. The other was a fairly representative passage I remembered from when we were performing Peter Handke’s The Ride Across Lake Constance.
Serendipitously I came across another reference to this legend in a book by Kurt Koffka, one of the founders of Gestalt psychology. In The Principles of Gestalt Psychology (1935) he uses it to distinguish between what he calls the ‘geographical environment’ and the ‘behavioural environment’:
To complete the seven we now look at an Austrian actor who portrayed Nazis from the safety of Hollywood, and two twins who were born in Nazi Germany.
To avoid calling them ‘Actor A’, ‘Actor B’ and so on in the published text Handke names the parts after well-known actors. The dramatis personae therefore reads like a who’s who (or wer ist wer?) of 20th Century Germanic cinema, with all that that entails:
Erich von Stroheim
Alice and Ellen Kessler
More on the first two below.
Not an easy question, as in many respects the play seems incomprehensible. I remember being quite bewildered when we performed it. Any attempt to summarise the plot hits an immediate obstacle in that there is hardly any plot to summarise.
Instead you get occasional patches of apparent clarity which, just as in a dream, seem to change into something entirely different, with an entirely different meaning. Sorry – apparent meaning.
I was talking last time about The Ride Across Lake Constance by Peter Handke. Lake Constance, or der Bodensee, sits between Germany, Switzerland and Austria. But the play itself gets its title from a South German legend about a horseman who sets out to ride to a village on the shore of the lake. It is winter, and it is snowing.
45 years ago I was in a play called The Ride Across Lake Constance. We put it on at a little fringe theatre club in Regents Park Road, Primrose Hill, called The Howff. ‘Howff’ is a Scottish word for meeting place or haunt. The building seems to be a wine shop now, so I guess it could still qualify as a howff of sorts. But to give you an idea of what it was like in the early 1970s, a review in the New Musical Express of a Sandy Denny gig the previous year talked of ‘the customary Howff fringe-theatre crowd who usually yap in cultured Hampstead tones’.
Our production was done on a shoestring, as you can see from the poster: