Von Alexander Haas
30.11.2010 / die tageszeitung
In their new piece "Mr Dagacar and the golden tectonics of trash”, Rimini Protokoll document the work of garbage collectors in Istanbul and their terrible nightmares. The production was a guest performance in Essen before moving on to Holland.
Directors collective Rimini Protokoll’s pieces are often a benefaction, and not just for critics: the benefaction of experiencing normal people on stage as actors and not ‘as-if’ acting from actors; the benefaction of material drawn from everyday life, which is presented here far more realistically than in the hardest director’s theatre; the benefaction of hearing the genuine voices and ways of speaking of the "experts of the everyday" who feature instead of actors in Rimini Protokoll’s works. In this case the voices are speaking in Turkish, with German surtitles provided for the performance at Pact Zollverein in Essen.
At the beginning of "Mr Dagacar and the golden tectonics of trash", the group’s contribution to Kulturhauptstadt Ruhr.2010 and a co-production with Kulturhauptstadt Istanbul, Bayram Renklihava, a garbage collector in Istanbul, recounts a dream in a dark, calm voice. It’s a dreadful dream; all his children die of a virus and he has to throw them, packed into rubbish bags, onto a rubbish dump. This is subsequently followed by another dream, told by his co-performer Abdullah Dagacar, for whom the piece is named. He speaks quietly in this language, which is foreign to many in the audience. It seems like an even, dry, rolling rustling; the foreign tongue is lent an aesthetic quality all its own. He describes another awful dream of a bright, endless light. Apo, as his co-performers call Mr Dagacar, concludes the dream with two prayers from the Koran.
Three narrators from Anatolian villages
Passages like these make it clear that the four protagonists of the piece, which is accompanied by a Turkish Karagöz player, come from a world very different from our own. Three of them come from Anatolian villages, one from the city of Mersin. The performance reports on their work as garbage collectors in Istanbul, their origins, their desires, in short, on their lives. Directors Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel approached them and asked them if they would like to take part in a theatre piece about themselves and their job. The process, which began with this question and continued until the premiere in Istanbul in October and the one in Essen last Friday evening, is also discussed during the evening. The performers describe the directors‘ scruples about encroaching on the lives of the collectors with this piece. What consequences would it have for their lives? What kind of a gesture would it be? And they talk about wanting to participate but not always believing that it would really happen.
The audience sees these five experts on the big, empty stage of Pact Zollverein in Essen with their big iron handcart, on which they collect the rubbish of urban dwellers and businesses in huge, white plastic bags, sort it and sell it. Normally the garbage stinks and gives off unhealthy gases, but the four protagonists didn’t want to have the garbage and the dumps they live in on stage. "We want to stand on stage with our culture and our customs", one says.
The audience sees and hears much of this culture during this evening. In the dreams and in the games they play in their villages and repeat on stage. Yet it is precisely this culture that more clearly elucidates the contradictory, deprived lives of the waste collectors. As they go about their work in the city, driven to it by economic necessity, their origins and culture fade into the background.
They have to compete with companies that have contracts with the city authorities, have to wear a uniform, because it makes them look more official to tourists, and they are dependent on the fluctuating world market prices of the materials they sell; iron, aluminium and paper.
The directors skilfully break up their protagonists’ tales and intersperse them with other forms of performance and topics, which still always refer in some way to the garbage collectors’ tales. Karagöz performer Hasan Hüseyin Karabag, with his comic shadow theatre, which is similar to German Kasperltheater or English Punch and Judy, is integrated into the action on stage. He in turn incorporates the other four experts into his performance as figures and makes fun of their stories. An impressive soundscape blends in seismographic sounds from Turkish seismological stations; muffled rumbling that draws the audience into the stories but at the same time also reveals them to be fraught with risk. Some of the collectors talk about quakes they have experienced.
The result is a complex and touching documentary narrative image of a piece of reality that would not have been known to many members of its western audiences in those places where Rimini Protokoll have staged the piece. A dramaturgically well-composed evening, informative without being admonitory, unpretentious and full of humour.