Living the lives of others inside a film

The prestigious German collective Rimini Protokoll premieres its new immersive experience of the city in Barcelona.


02.07.2021 /

Acceptable film? Overflowing exhibition? Expanded theatre? Any attempt to categorise Urban Nature, the new immersive work by Rimini Protokoll at the CCCB, seems doomed to fail, but it matters little in this case. The experience is so subjugating that for just over fifty minutes it takes you out of your life to live the lives of seven real people, seven people from Barcelona, with whom we will sit at the bar or at a meeting table of a financial advisor, we will lie down on the bunk beds of a hostel for the homeless, and we will enter the workshops of a prison where the inmates manufacture industrial parts. They are the protagonists, we are the actors.

Rimini Protokoll is one of the most innovative companies in European theatre. In 2017, as part of the exhibition After the End of the World, they presented Win-Win, a hard-to-forget stage play about the winning and losing species in the climate crisis which made us feel insignificant in front of an aquarium of jellyfish. And last year they made another impact at Temporada Alta with Uncanny Valley, whose protagonist was a humanised robot. Now they are back with a world premiere, produced by the CCCB itself, about the different ways of living (and surviving and coexisting) in the city, which will be open until 19 September and is part of the Grec. "Barcelona has missed so much from this company that we'll have to make up for it quickly", acknowledges festival director Cesc Casadesús.

"When was the last time you broke the law?" "How many people in your city do you know?" "Does capitalism work for you?" With these and other questions in the air, the visitor will enter a journey through different scenarios where we will learn the story of Enric Tello, professor of economic and environmental history who, in a public square, will reflect on water as a human right - "water and money should not go together", he says when someone throws a coin into the fountain - and the future of cities - "if everyone leaves the cities, who will be left? Those who can't leave?"; Miguel, a consultant for a digital food delivery platform, speaks from the airport bar of a world in which the gig economy will make it possible for no one to move.

A ticket to the future will take us to the dormitory of a homeless shelter where Siham explains that "on the street you always have to sleep with one eye open"; Leyla, a girl from the Raval, wonders "why adults have built such dangerous cities where their own children can't walk alone"; Calamanda, between games on a tennis court, invites us to her office overlooking the city; Christian, a prison officer moonlighting in a funeral parlour, says that after all, a prison is a mini-city with all the services; and Camila recounts her journey from graphic designer to marijuana grower in her home in order to be with her five-year-old son.

We see them through the screens, and we also see those who have been there before us, thanks to a complex technology that makes it possible for some visitors, armed with headphones and a tablet, to represent the different characters. "We are coming out of a period of isolation and a crisis that has made us see others as dangerous. I hope the piece will make people realise that listening to people outside our immediate circles is an important part of the utopia that cities can represent," says Stefan Kaegi, one of the members of the collective together with Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel.