Von Klas Libuda
21.06.2016 / RP Online
The theatre troupe Rimini Protokoll tells refugees’ stories in the FFT-Kammerspielen. And the audience is part of the game.
In the end everyone applauds, but no-one knows exactly why, or for whom they are actually applauding. Because “Evros Walk Water” managed to go 70 minutes without any actors, directors, peep-box, curtain or bows; there was a stage, but the audience was standing on it.
The piece was introduced as a new production of John Cage’s avant-garde composition “Water Walk”, which he performed with household appliances on an American TV show in 1960. A plastic fish flailed on the piano strings, boiling water hissed in a pot. In the middle was a bathtub – in the FFT theatre there is a rubber dinghy in the middle, and around it are 24 stations with headphones through which Afghan, Syrian and Iraqi nine-to-seventeen year-olds tell the story of when they fled, from over the Évros (Maritsa) to Athens. They can’t come to Düsseldorf, they explain, so they are asking the audience to perform their Cage piece for them. Onstage there are a number of quite regular objects: a vase and a model racecar, for example.
Now the game begins, and everything seems coordinated with everything else; at station 19 a boy recounts that he carried a weapon as a child in Pakistan, and in the same moment a spectator on the opposite side picks up a toy weapon and shoots in the air. The chains a few metres further evoke the detention facility in Greece. Someone rattles them – instructions are given over the headphones, every movement is coordinated down to the second. “Evros Walk Water” is a complex, walkable, docu-theatrical radio drama installation that is easily accessible to the spectators, because the stories of flight are being recounted directly to them, and they are a part of the game. It is so well executed that one doesn’t even think about how much effort has gone into coordinating it until much later. And better still, the directors have shunned creating drama and teaching lessons.
In between, the youth talk about video games and play their favourite rap songs; they offend and insult each other. When he can think of nothing else to say, one of them says: “Fuck your Africa” – exactly the thoughtless nonsense that every adolescent comes out with sometimes. In the middle are humans, and that is what we should all bear in mind.
Translated by Justina Bartoli