By Roland Pohl
12.12.2004 / Der Standard
The theatre trio “Rimini Protokoll” presents an outline on questions of protocol of a world culture in collaboration with real diplomats and “foreign office-specialists”: a small but important highlight at the Burgtheater-Kasino
Vienna – Diplomacy is differentiated from other kinds of observation by its fair measure of secretiveness. Its points of protocol – rattling of paper flags, shining of bayonets of the Honorary Guards - stand pompously out, while its substance feeds of an image of a higher and more risky reality which hides behind this obvious reality.
Diplomats appear to turn away evil tirelessly – they sacrifice themselves for the Fatherland in the most remote places of the earth. The theatre project team Rimini Protokoll presents its piece at the Kasino of the Burgtheater. It is coloured by local politics and one further element is added: Former and present diplomats bear upon their amateur theatre-shoulders the burden of handed-down royal traditions.
The diplomats and their government informers and employees are rather funny but in the soft stagelight they don’t stand out very much very much more than other contemporary pepole.
They present a homely, nasal Schönbrunner-German, as the elegant former ambassador to China, Wolfgang Wollte demonstrates. They all wear well-tailored suits, and when questioned they know immediately if North-Korea has anembassy in Vienna where it is (“ North-Korea? Yea, there’s one...”).
The directors of Rimini Protokoll, Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel knacker themselves with the preparation of official recipients of orders of the Foreign Ministry who belong to this expert- specialist culture just like scientists research intensely on living beetles. Determinedly, they deny any ethnological interests, and mark neuralgic, ambiguous point of social behaviour with their theatre productions.
The three graduates from the famous/infamous Theatre Studies in Giessen, after which you can only make your way if you can say the awful word “post-theatral” without a hick-up, infiltrate the Stadttheater through backdoors with their special interests. They are willingly courted by theatre managements tired from routine-business, and treated as loveable exotics just like redeemers. The team has been showered with prizes and they have established their “headquarters” in Berlin at the Hebbel-Theater.
In Vienna, nine participants are lead through a crash-course episode by episode, and the homely mentality of following official orders which is only to an extent able to tell a story dominates. After all, diplomacy also lives of the taming of “unhealthy” passions.
An unexcited zeal unfolds amongst the laurel pot plants, the so-called “Jubelkraut” (Cheering Greens), and pin-studded maps of the world. Former Commander of the Guards, Thomas Mader, talks shop. A seamstress of national banners (Ulrike Zimmel) supply and demand of the banner business (“polyesterfabrics!”). Material for lasting irritations trickle through very carfully the seams of an unspectacular theatre production. A former Consul’s wife manifests her memories of the numerous stations of her chic travelling life as a luxury parcel with her evening robes for the various occasions. You see the bizarre shattered pieces of life on call without the lady being deliberately denounced while the specialists and expert with the Jubelkraut waltz around her.
Moments like this make “Schwarzenbergplatz” a more essential evening of the Viennese theatre-autumn. A Chinese (Ying Xie) with a restricted visa amazes the audience with a song – and all global communication problems seem to transcend immediately. It’s only the scars of the world culture which continue to be a festering sore