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Taking a ride: Rimini Protokoll

Rimini Protokoll’s Helgard Haug discusses the collective’s latest back-of-a-truck production, Do’s and Don’ts, all throughout May starting at HAU1.

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Photo by Volker Hartmann

Rimini Protokoll’s Helgard Haug discusses the collective’s latest back-of-a-truck production.

Berlin-based documentary dramatists Rimini Protokoll have been creating existential exercises for the stage under the collective name since 2000. Founded by Germans Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel along with the Swiss Stefan Kaegi, they have a knack for putting “real people” on stage to tell their own stories. And while they’re no strangers to traditional venues the world, or rather Berlin, is also their stage, producing urban tours delivered via headset (Remote X) or packing the audience onto the back of a moving truck with a transparent wall (as in Cargo X, Truck Tracks Ruhr, and now again in Do’s and Don’ts: A journey through every trick in the city.) Helgard Haug met with us to discuss putting audiences back on that truck, this time guided by children explaining how Berlin is governed by rules – and their limits. 

What’s the fascination with this truck?

It’s our little mobile venue. About 50 audience members sit in three rows and look through the window. Driving through a city, you see in detail what its society is like. It’s a perfect tool for examining its different realities. Cargo X was about the lives and perspectives of two Romanian logistics truck drivers. For Truck Tracks Ruhr, we invited 49 artists working in seven different cities to create works at different locations. And now we’re looking at the “rules” of cities, from the perspective of two kids. 

What are the kids like?

The younger kid is 10 and she’s fascinated by rules – even advising the grown ups to stop when there is a red light. We start the tour from her perspective as she gets to know the city and understand its rules: laws, taboos, traditions. With her, we drive up to a huge construction site and imagine what would happen if this area were sold to a private company like Google or Microsoft in order to create their smart cities with rules that are totally determined by them and not the state. Later, there’s a 17-year-old in a completely different frame of mind. A very political guy, he’s questioning those rules, remarking how stupid they are. He considers places that show where we might be headed, like Bahnhof Südkreuz, which has a very sophisticated surveillance system. It was very touching to learn how excluded he feels from the city, which he sees as lacking free and open space. The truck driver, the third party in this piece, always finds very clever solutions and knows how he can stretch every rule in a way that nally meets his demands. 

What made you think of using a 10-year-old’s points of view? How much did you in uence what she says?

We always think about whose eyes or whose body we are using to tell a story. There are always fictional lines, and we work together to condense and shape a narrative. We look for certain types, in this case a young person with strong ideas about rules. But it’s still her own story; her mother comes from Argentina and so many of her stories compare life there with Berlin. 

But is she even familiar with the parts of the city she’s guiding us through?

She lives in Kreuzberg, so when we start at the HAU 1, we’re in her neighbourhood. But then we go to Hermannplatz; that’s a place she wouldn’t go to on her own, because she’s a little afraid of what she’s observed there. But we insist on going there and prompting her to actually get off the truck. She wouldn’t naturally do so and the contrast is interesting. 

You said yourself that your authenticity is “prearranged”; similarly, you don’t fact-check your experts’ stories. Is faux authenticity your aim?

No, it’s not at all about fakery. It is perhaps on the contrary, concerned with personal truth, about a person’s perception of themselves. Fact-checking is something you must do if you are a journalist, but as playwrights and directors, we have a certain license to play with truth and fiction. 

DO’s & DON’Ts – A journey through every trick in the city May 3-5, 7-9, 11, 12, 14-17, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28-30 (German or German with English translation), starts and ends at HAU 1