By Petra Schellen
24.08.2004 / Taz
They dreamed a dream: It was the dream of the everlasting guarantee of a job. And they didn’t even grow up in ex in the Eastern Germany, but in Belgium, to be precise: in the bosom of the gigantic employer Sabena which went so dramatically bankrupt in 2001. It wasn’t even the Sabena – people who came up with this dream. No, it was the mother-company herself who created this hope of extensive care. The airline presented itself as a “big family”, and new members were greeted with “welcome” training sessions. In return, they willingly submitted to being brain-washed, and were flexible in their employer’s service. An employer, however, who had been in deficit since the nineties until he finally went bankrupt in 2001 at the expense of 12 000 people’s jobs. Over and done with empathy and care: “Go home & follow the news” was the management’s comment. Meaning: “Sorry, Corporate Identity was just fun. “
“Rimini-Protokoll’s” production at Kampnagel is not reigned by the former bitterness. The ensemble balances fiction and reality with great care and skill; the theme of death was dealt with professionally with “Deadline” which they presented at the Berliner Theatertreffen in 2004.
The collage of videos and live-presentation shows the successful mixture of authenticity and poetry: seven ex-Sabenians were chosen and the myth of Sabena was traced by “Rimini-Protokoll” through the hierarchies. “I never returned my uniform”, says one employee in the video of 2001. “I’m a member of 15 Sabena-Leisure Clubs which are still in existence”, reports the ex-pilot live. And the formed head of security, whose references aren’t worth anything is still able to carve aeroplanes from cucumbers. They are passed through the rows, and the audience is not sure whether to be amused, feel awkward or empathy.
The productions succeeds in doing the splits: nobody is put on show for even a single second, and there is no celebration of self-pity. An unemployed talks in a matter-of-fact way about his over 40 ti4es for job-interviews; the ex-stewardess, who now gives counselling on job-interviews lectures elegantly on the ‘smile’. Another produces anti-depressants in the meantime. There is a sense of irony in the air with these turnings; the explanation by the former head of security on accompanying Africans who are “unwilling to return” sounds softly critical: “You have to jam me in tightly so that I cannot move any more. This is called self-defence.” Does identification have its limits?
“40 percent of the world population are sufficient to do one hundred percent of the workload”, says the unemployed and paces his imaginary flat just as in real life. And slowly the productions connects the fates and develops a choreography: Demarcations on the floor turn into a runway on which the last days can be beautifully reconstructed. Or repeat the ritual of the “last flight” which ends in a phenomenal crash of table-tennis balls – a reminder of the Sabena table-tennis team. “ At the performances in Belgium we could always spot the Ex-Sabenians”, says the former head of security later. “They were all crying.” Nobody weeps at Kampnagel. The Ex-Sabenians smile and thank you at the end of the flight. Somehow it’s cold tonight.
- English by Sonja Müller