Rimini Protokoll Takes Dramatiker des Jahres Award for its Karl Marx Project

By Ulrich Fischer

01.01.1970 / www.goethe.de

Independent directors Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel from the directors' group Rimini Protokoll have been awarded the renowned Dramatiker des Jahres prize for their drama project on Karl Marx and the force of Capital.

After a public debate in Mülheim’s Stadthalle the jury of the Mülheim Theatertage awarded the prize to the dramatists and directors' collective for their piece Karl Marx: Das Kapital, Erster Band. The drama was commissioned by several theatres including the Schauspielhaus in Düsseldorf, where it premiered. It is an attempt to reconcile dramatic interpretation with reality. The directors had spoken to a hundred contemporary witnesses and then selected eight, one woman and seven men. These eight witnesses recount their stories on stage, all of which are more or less related to Das Kapital.

Major force in modern German theatre

Rimini Protokoll was founded in the 1990s by students of applied drama at the University of Giessen and today is a major force in modern German theatre. The collective has staged productions at several city theatres and most recently also at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich, one of the theatres that commissioned the Karl Marx piece.

Thomas Kuczynski, statistician and economic historian, is one of the protagonists. He reports on his plans to analyse three different versions of Marx’ seminal work and produce a new version that comes as closely as possible to the philosopher’s original intentions. A serious academic, his role severely contrasts with that of the con man featuring in Ulf Mailänder's part. Mailänder’s story is all about a genius fraudster to whom greedy Hamburg citizens entrust their millions for some miraculous investment purpose. Marx' Das Kapital appears to be de-demonized by stories like this one.

Can pieces like these be performed by actors?

Rimini Protokoll aims to look at Marx and his work from a cheerful, relaxed perspective. By putting people at the heart of the piece, it intends, like Marx, to take a stand against real capital.

The jury hotly debated whether actors could legitimately perform the text without it losing its authenticity - in other words, whether the piece was capable of being performed like a regular drama. Although the issue remained unresolved, the audience, too, voted overwhelmingly in favour of Rimini Protokoll, so the winners not only took home the jury's award but also that of the audience.

All five jurors agreed that 2007 was a particularly strong year, so departing from regular practice seven rather than eight submissions had been invited to Mülheim. Strong acclaim also went to Nobel Peace Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, a two-time winner of the Dramatikerpreis, for her drama Ulrike Maria Stuart.

The majority of this year’s submissions in Mülheim focused on social criticism. Younger dramatists are appearing to turn away from structural experiments, instead favouring traditional dramatic narratives. The Dramatikerpreis is endowed with EUR 15,000.