By Peter Crawley
03.05.2007 / The Irish Times
This truck, we are informed, is 15 years old, 12ft long and has seen much better days. Before it began hauling cargo across the hellish borders of Eastern europe it was credited with 540 horsepower. "30 to 40 of them are already dead,"says Ventzislav Borissov, a charismatically weary Bulgrian trucker who will be one of our guides for a simulated trip from Sofia to Dublin.
Actually, the truck for Rimini Protokoll's intriguing show about the rise and consequence of globalisation is in pretty good nick, equipped to be both a mobile performance venue and a rolling observatory. Through the container's glass walls the city streets roll by in an endless panorama while, periodically, video screens roll down to accommodate superimposed vistas of the former Soviet Bloc. This is the form and blurred realitiy of writer/director Stefan Kaegi's production: a road trip and a double exposure.
It is certainly revealing. We learn, by means of bullet-point text, about the extraordinary history of Willi Betz, a German trucking company which established a monopoly within Eastern Europe, and, more recently, was the subject of border-crossing bribery allegations. The testimony of the drivers in the cab is more prosaic: the Serbian border costs either €5 or two packs of cigarettes; in Kuwait a copy of Playboy is worth one tank of gas.
If Kaegi has no truck with how a corporation thrives in corrupted states (until 1999, Germany made foreign bribes tax-reductable), he suggests that the working conditions of these Bulgarian truckers are grossly unfair. As Borissov and Nedyalko Nedyalkov show us their familiy photos, explain their shifts and their cabin-fever living conditions, comment on the price of diesel or the tow-day queue for the Kalotina crossing, they do so with numb good humour.
Can a documentary performance on the tedium of long-distance hauliers avoid becoming a tedious experience itself? For the main part, it can. As each new city is announced, we get the giddy bounce of local FM radio, while a striking Bulgarian singer materialises in Dublin's most unlikely places. We also get an astonishing glimpse of Dublin itselff, such as a hypnotically slow cruise through the labyrinthine container stacks off Dublin Ferry Port.
As the novelty of freight-specific performance begins to wear off, the show loses horsepower, but seeing how Dublin fits into this global picture is both awesome and sidcomfiting. As for the unsuspecting Dublin public, many of whom are local lorry drivers, they glance in our direction competely unfazed. Only later do we realise that the audience has been concealed by a one-way mirro. A voyeuristic cop-out, perhaps, or the last validation of a slow dawning truth. that truckers have seen it all.