Rimini Protokoll put on their first projects at fringe theatres, but they have also been welcome guests on municipal stages since the beginning of the decade – in the 2006/7 season, they will be undertaking three projects at the Schauspielhaus Zurich alone.
Apart from this, they have done a great deal of work abroad in the last few years – above all on commissions for the Goethe-Institut.
No one who seeks to define what the theatrical collective or directing trio with the unusual name Rimini Protokoll does can avoid the words reality and fiction. Rimini Protokoll look to real life for their themes. Each one of their projects is developed out of a concrete situation in a specific location on the basis of exhaustive research. The group always conceives its productions in collaboration with amateur actors who play themselves. Haug, Wetzel and Kaegi prefer to call these actors, who they find while they are carrying out their research, “specialists”.
However, this is where it becomes difficult to separate reality and fiction as the actual and the imaginary shift, interact and overlap: the audience does not know where drama begins and real life stops; it is unable, and also not intended, to know where this line should be drawn. However, the group is not just taking pleasure in sleight of hand; indeed, this ambiguity makes it apparent again and again that it is only on the stage that reality is genuinely revealed. The theatre of Rimini Protokoll does not set up an opposition between the stage and the audience, but integrates the two spheres in ever changing experimental set-ups. In doing this, they are interested in perception and the knowability of the world, in particular the knowability of human beings. The aim is to break open the complex that constitutes our reality, showing it in all its facets as a way of enabling us to interrogate it. Rimini Protokoll apply their method to the world with enormous subtlety and great curiosity, bringing people and ideas together in constellations that always come as a surprise. In consequence, they have become the central figures in the documentary movement that has been making such an impact in German theatres over the last few years.
After completing their studies in Gießen and presenting their first works on the fringe scene, Rimini Protokoll had the then President of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, to thank for their rapid rise to fame. Under the title “Germany 2”, they wanted to recreate the sitting of the German Bundestag that took place on the floor of the Reichstag Building at Berlin on 27 June 2002 in the Bundestag’s abandoned plenary chamber at Bonn. The speeches would be delivered by those on whose behalf the parliament had been deliberating, ordinary citizens. Thierse refused permission for the happening, citing the “dignity of parliament”. This response triggered a discussion about the freedom of art, the relationship between politics and art and the boundaries of drama and reality: since then, the public has known the kind of territory on which Rimini Protokoll operate. The event eventually took place at the Theater-Halle in Bonn Beuel, with the words that had been spoken by parliamentarians being played directly into the headphones of people from Bonn, who tried to repeat them as simultaneously as possible.
Working in various combinations, the three keep shaping new plays out of the material provided by real life. “Deadline” (Haug/Kaegi/Wetzel) was created by Rimini Protokoll at a venue that was subsequently to be closed, the Neues Cinema, a performance space used by the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg. On the stage – which would soon cease to be a stage – stood a series of people who encountered death in the course of their work: a mayor who was obliged to attend the funerals of prominent local citizens, a stonemason, a funeral speaker and a medicine student, who all explained how they felt about the end of life. The piece was structured so cleverly in dramatic terms, with the individual contributions enlarging on and reflecting each other, that the audience was presented with both a tableau of contemporary attitudes towards death and startling insights into the individuals concerned and their stories.
“Sabenation: Go Home & Follow the News” (Haug/Kaegi/Wetzel) was structured in a similarly sophisticated way. It was about the many thousands of employees made redundant by the Belgian airline Sabena. Once again, the performers were brilliantly chosen, as always “specialists” who played themselves. Once again, the audience learned a tremendous amount about the backgrounds and fates of these people. Once again, it found itself confronted with a multifaceted reality.
Amazingly enough, the heights Rimini Protokoll’s drama is capable of reaching were shown most clearly by, of all things, “Wallenstein” (Haug/Wetzel), which was staged at the Mannheim Schiller Festival. Their first work based on a classic dramatic text was a triumph of casting. It was astounding how much this production had to say about power and resistance and how much was revealed about these topics by a young politician who had been chosen, then dropped, as his party’s candidate to be Mayor of Mannheim, a Weimar police chief and, most of all, a veteran of the Vietnam War living in Heidelberg. The piece seemed so authentic and dense that it was hard to stop oneself from thinking one was watching the theatre being abolished, but in fact it was artfully staged drama. Reality was represented without losing its authenticity.
The directorial intelligence of Rimini Protokoll’s work was illustrated by “Call Cutta” (Haug/Kaegi/Wetzel). Each member of the audience was given a mobile telephone on which they could hear someone talking to them from Calcutta and guiding them through the streets of Berlin. They were led through the German capital by the distant call centre while becoming more or less intimate with its employees. In their most recent work, “Cargo Sofia” (Kaegi), the audience sit in a lorry in which they are shown films of lorry drivers’ long journeys, as well as being able to look out at the world rolling past and observe truckers’ chance encounters at service stations. This plunges them into the world of the transport workers who drive back and forth across Europe on minimal wages. There is nothing in the German theatre at the moment that takes audiences as close to reality as the works of Rimini Protokoll.
Translated by Martin Pearce
- "Worl Climate Change Conference"
2014, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg
- „Situation Rooms. A Multiplayer Video-play“
2013, Ruhrtriennale, Bochum
Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen
- „Quality Control“
2013, Schauspiel Stuttgart, Spielstätte Nord
Invitation to the Mülheimer Theatertage
- „Remote X“
2013, Hebbel am Ufer (HAU), Berlin
- "Lagos Business Angels"
2012, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
- "100 Percent Cologne. A statistical chain reaction"
2011, Schauspiel Köln
- "Hermann's Battle"(Haug/Wetzel)
Kleist by Rimini-Protokoll
2011, Kleistforum, Frankfurt/Oder, within the scope of the Kleist Festival
- "100 Percent Karlsruhe. A Staistical Chainreaction"(Haug/Kaegi/Wetzel)
2011, Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe
2011, National Theater of Wales, Aberystwyth
- "Bodenprobe Kasachstan" (i.e. "Soil Sample Kazakhstan"
2011, Schauspiel Hannover
- "Radioortung: 50 Aktenkilometer. Ein begehbares Stasi-Hörspiel" (i.e. "Radio Positioning: 50 Kilometres of Files. A Walk-In Stasi Radio Play")
2011, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
- "Mr. Dağacar and the Golden Tectonics of Trash"
2010, Theater garajistanbul, Istanbul, in the context of the istanbul project "Istanpoli", Ruhr 2010; Pact Zollverein, Essen
- "Prometheus in Athens"
2010, Odeon Theatre, Athens
- "Best Before"
2010, PuSh/Vancouver - “The Cultch”, Vancouver, British Columbia
- "Security Conference"
(Kaegi)2009, Münchner Kammerspiele
- "Vùng biên giới"
2009, Staatsschauspiel Dresden
2009, Schauspielhaus Zürich und Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
- "The Sorcerers Apprentice"
2009, Central, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus
- "Annual Shareholders Meeting"
2009, ICC Berlin
- "Radio Muezzin"
2008, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin, Goethe-Institut Ägypten
- "Breaking News - A Daily News Show"
2008, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
- "Soko São Paulo"(Lola Arias und Stefan Kaegi)
2007, São Paulo
- "Karl Marx: Capital, Volume One"
2006, Schauspiel Düsseldorf, Invitation to the Mülheimer Theatertage
- „Cargo Sofia“
2006, Theater Basel
- „Blaiberg und sweetheart19" (i.e., "Blaiberg and sweetheart 19")
2006, Schauspielhaus Zürich
- „Cameriga. A Metabureaucracy“
2005, Festival Homo Novus Riga
2005, Internationale Schillertage Nationaltheater Mannheim / Nationaltheater Weimar (Invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
2005, Theater Basel
- „Call Cutta. A mobile phone theatre“
2005, Goethe Institut Calcutta, Hebbel am Ufer Berlin
2004, Kasino am Schwarzenbergplatz, Burgtheater Wien
- „Brunswick Airport. Weil der Himmel uns braucht“ (i.e., "Brunswick Airport: Because Heaven needs Us")(Haug/Kaegi/Wetzel)
2004, Festival Theaterformen, Braunschweig
- „Sabenation. Go home & follow the news“
2004, kunstenfestival des arts Brüssel
- „Hot Spots“
2004 Thesseum A theatre fort he arts / Goethe Institut Athen
- „Zeugen! Ein Strafkammerspiel“ (i.e., "Witnesses ! A Play in the Criminal Division")
2004, Hebbel am Ufer Berlin, Schauspiel Hannover
- „Markt der Märkte“ (i.e., "Market of Markets")
2003, Schauspiel Bonn
- „The midnight special agency“
2003, Kunstenfestival des arts, Brüssel
2003, Neues Cinema Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg (Invited to the Berliner Theatertreffen)
- „Deutschland 2“(i.e., "Germany 2")
2002, Theater der Welt, Bonn
- „Sonde Hannover“ (i.e., "Hanover Probe")
2002, Festival Theaterformen, Hannover
- „Shooting Bourbaki“ (i.e., "Shooting Bourbaki")
2001, Theater Luzern
- „Torero Portero“ (i.e., "Torero Portero")
2001, Goethe Institut Cordoba
- „Apparat Berlin“ (i.e., "Apparatus Berlin")
2001, Prater at the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. Berlin
- „Kreuzworträtsel Boxenstopp“ (i.e., "Crossword Puzzle Pit Stop")
2000, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt am Main
Rimini Protokoll have also produced a number of radio plays