23.02.2008 / epd medien No. 15
epd At the beginning, the stage setting shows the Berlin ‘Sozialpalast’ (workers’ palace) in Pallasstrasse in Schoeneberg. One balcony after another, one satellite dish after another. Martina Englert, Marion Mahneke and Sushila Sharma-Haque are the first to come on stage. Martina and Sushila introduce themselves as interpreters and residents of the building, in which a total of 2,000 people live. Martina says she has no television, which is why there is also no satellite dish on her balcony. She prefers to get her information through the medium of radio. Sushila reports that she always watches the "Morgenmagazin" on ARD or ZDF at six in the morning to find out how the weather will be.
We are in a piece by the Rimini Protokoll theatre group. The three women and six men on stage this evening are not actors. They are "experts of everyday life", as the theatre-makers call their performers. They all have something to do with news in the broad sense, because the piece being performed in Schauspiel Frankfurt is called "Breaking News - ein Tagesschauspiel" (“Breaking News – a daily news show”).
Together with the audience, the nine performers watch live news broadcasts from all over the world: Russian, Venezuelan, Arabic, Pakistani and of course German. The interpreters explain the news from Syria, Cuba or Iceland to the audience. The interpreter of the German daily news programme “Tagesschau” is Walter van Rossum, who recently wrote a book on news broadcasts called “Die Tagesshow - Wie man in 15 Minuten die Welt unbegreiflich macht” (“The daily news spectacle – How to make the world incomprehensible in 15 minutes”). Van Rossum stands on his head on stage and says that you have to change your point of view to better understand the “Tagesschau”. According to van Rossum it shows the world from the point of view of Merkel and Beck, turning it into a “mad patchwork”.
For Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel, Rimini Protokoll’s two dramatists, "Breaking News" is no heavy-handed criticism of the media or even well meant media education. It’s about our life with the media, the small section of the world that television shows, and especially about what we make of it ourselves - our image of the world.
The Riminis have chosen their news professionals well. Sushila was an editor at the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Icelander Símon Birgisson, who is so keenly interested in "the herring issue", the report on the herring shortage, with which Icelandic television opens its news, is a TV moderator and investigative journalist in Reykjavik. Andreas Osterhaus, editor in chief at AFP, is the evening’s stage director, chairing his colleagues’ conference, switching between broadcasters, and demonstrating the typically relaxed concentration of a long-serving news veteran.
Hans Hübner, ARD’s former Africa correspondent, whose reports in the daily news programmes “Tagesschau” and “Tagesthemen” were striking for their pleasantly calm narrative tone, is also present. The hectic, breathless style of many other crisis correspondents was absent from Hübner’s reports. He looked at things more closely, and was one of the few to reveal from the outset that the American landing in Somalia in December 1992 was stage-managed. He showed that the cameras were already in position when the American military’s amphibious vehicles landed. Extracts from this piece are seen on the many screens on the Frankfurt stage during the evening. Hübner, who was also a theatre critic when young, quotes occasionally from Aeschylus’ “Persians”, which is also about news brought by a messenger; news of the defeat of the Persian king Xerxes.
“Rimini is the hottest, most intelligently surprising group on the current international theatre scene”, wrote Peter von Becker, theatre critic of the “Tagesspiegel”, a year ago. That was before Rimini Protokoll was awarded the Mülheimer Dramatikerpreis (Mülheim Dramatists’ Award) for “Karl Marx, das Kapital” (“Karl Marx, Capital”), as well as the special award of the Deutscher Theaterpreis “Der Faust” (German Theatre Award “Der Faust”) and the Europäischer Theaterpreis (European Theatre Award) in the category ‘New Theatrical Realities’. It is in fact amazing how Rimini Protokoll and their experts can open the eyes to new realities in one evening of theatre. Even veteran news journalists and media critics go away rubbing their eyes in astonishment. Reality and reporting, media criticism and play, illusion and stage production overlap, creating a vast space for associations. The ancient medium of theatre doesn’t get any more spirited and inspiring than this.