Von Uwe Gössel
14.06.2004 / Berliner Zeitung
It is probably the only theatre place with direct connection to the highway: The international Airport Brunwick located at the A2 from Hannover to Berlin. The theatre team calls its latest production “Weil der Himmel Uns Braucht” (Because the sky needy us) following the motto of the German Institute of Flight Security.
For years now, the author-director-trio Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel, now in-house directors of Matthias Lilienthal’s HAU, works at the question how society constructs the world in order to get a grip on it as a phenomenon. Their story-telling strategy changes depending on the object. They synchronised sessions of the German parliament, re-enacted court trials, and undertook inter-disciplinary studies on the phenomenon of dying. Rimini Protokoll were invited with their last production “Deadline” to this year’s Theatertreffen. Now they present two premiers at the Theaterformen Festival in Braunschweig and Hannover.
All their works have in common that they use theatre not only to show the fictional part of the world construction, but also to make it a sensual experience. And this is what happens to a “little brother” of the major Berlin airport Tempelhof in “Weil der Himmel Uns Braucht”. A public initiative protests with leaflets “against a theatre which supports stultification of the people by being devoted to technology and playing things down.” This raises the anticipation. But if you know Rimini Protokoll you have to wonder whether this group of people is real or already the first simulation.
Two visitors at a time are being sent on a path through the deserted former nazi building almost every ten minutes. They follow via headphones at various stations fragments of the people who are connected to this little universe of small niches. Or they look out of the window across a runway with hardly any planes on it, and listen to a voice which analyses the blackbox and thus reconstructs reality. It also talks about the two aeroplanes which into one another recently at the Bodensee (Lake Constance). The audience is the surprised wanderer through time, places and history who pieces heard and seen things together independently to a third, new element. The question about the expansion of the airport as a local political topic is of little interest to Rimini Protokoll. They are much more keen to observe how their candidates perceive their world. Like the old, almost deaf pilot, who lives directly next to the airfield for seventy years. He seems to lift off when he recalls the wild pilot years around 1940. Then his wife gets him back down to earth with a smile, sends him into the house – a tiny red spot opposite the tower.
What kind of story-telling form is this? Theatre installation, documentation film theatre, theatre-radio-play performance or the oral history of a building with a Nazi-past elongated into the virtual future? The audience becomes responsible, is constructed to be witness, becomes the hearing audience and the acting part of the installation. The political character of the project lies in this co-creation.
The second piece of Rimini Protokoll, “Sabenation. Go home and follow the News”, also deals with flying, but this time it’s about the crash of the Belgian airline Sabena in 2001.
12 000 employees lost their existence. Seven of them are in Braunschweig on stage. They were pilot, stewardess or ground staff. They are experts in their profession, but unemployed now. On stage they talk about their biographies and strategies to find new work. After 143 unsuccessful applications, the stewardess now teaches young women who want to become stewardesses themselves. The air-traffic controller now organises the packaging of 800 000 anti-depressants. And the catering-man acts as ‘Marsupilami’ in a costume at the Brussels’ Atomium. Their common centre is their professional failure. It’s not their fault, but it remains their problem. This shows us a phenomenon of our society, in which the individual has to increasingly organise himself. Rimini Protokoll succeeds again with this production not only to give a frame to private personalities on stage where they convincingly are the people they talk about, but also to create space to invite the audience to connect these stories to their own version of reality. It becomes comprehensible how biographies, history and future are played about with and how the reality behind it might be deciphered and understood. In the end, all details with the shifted perspectives from the Sabena-story put together, we have a significant X-ray of our times.
Our author designate manager of the Internationales Forum of the Theatertreffen. “Sabenation Go home and follow the news” is to be seen at the HAU in October.