Home, Strange Home (Heimatm, Strange Heimat)

A diplomatic Master-Class: The Documentary Theatre Performance "Schwarzenbergplatz" by Rimini Protokoll at the Casino

Von Wolfgang Kralicekl

12.12.2004 / Falter (No. 50)

The world is everything which is a case. Theatre is everything that is on stage. Even when as an exception to the rule “real” people act instead of actors and they miraculously become performers. Magic? No, only stage direction: The German-Swiss team (Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel) produces theme-evenings with “specialists” instead of actors and change reality into a theatrical form. Almost a year after their dying-performance “Deadline” (Falter, 5/04) Rimini Protokoll is back in town again. They developed a project on behalf of the Burgtheater the with obvious title “Schwarzenbergplatz” about the rather theatre-neglected theme of diplomacy. Nine Ladies and Gentlemen who are directly or indirectly involved with diplomacy are on stage: Martin Thelen from the Office for Foreign Affairs and whose great-grandfather was an actor of the Burgtheatrer pins little flags onto a world map to mark the cities with Austrian embassies (there is none in New Zealand, there is no official car in Malta). Horst Fischer, the secretive secretary to the embassy explains the powerful dimensions of the S-Klasse Mercedes which he used to drive as a chauffeur (“Inside of it I was extraterritorial”). Brigitte Hörbinger who was married to a Consul General for 32 years describes her evening robes which she had made for herself at various places throughout her diplomatic career (“elegant for Austria”). Wolfgang Wolte who was ambassador to Beijing for many years recalls the most tricky situation he encountered on his mission: It was in Beijing in 1981 at the ice-hockey world championship of Group C when China confronted Austria. (Diplomatically, both rose to Group B.) Ulrike Zimmel of the company Fahnen Chrisl gave a paper on banners (“here we have High-Austria or Poland”). Major Thomas Mader, federal army, describes the order of events of visits of state from the guard's point of view (Motto: “Honour and duty”) and an action during winter at the Hungarian border where he unit picked up a group of partly barefoot refugees. Willifried Korvánik, Head of the Aliens Branch of the Police, reveals the nick-name for the little trees at State receptions (“Jubelkraut”; Cheering-Greens) and the clever clever construction of barriers: “The more demonstrators are on the gates the more stable the become”. The student of singing, Ying Xie, sings a song and tells her story in Chinese: “As long as I sing I can stay”. Photographs and diplomatic terms are projected onto a screen, sounds and soft music (“True” by Spandau Ballet) emerge from a small loudspeaker, and the banners wave in the wind produced by a wind-machine once: The production does not offer more special effects. The seemingly so dry material is seemingly presented one-to-one; but bit by bit it becomes apparent that the play of one hundred minutes is built on a subtle structure, which also allows for a “Sisi”-dialogue (Romy Schneider is dubbed into Chinese!), for instance. “Schwarzenbergplatz” functions like a good documentary: You gain surprising insights into alien worlds. The difference being that the actors are not only themselves but also artificial figures of a production which they helped to create and shape. The result looks stunningly like theatre. Perhaps magic is involved after all.