My introduction to the undeniable work of Berlin based Rimini Protokoll came in 2008 at The Pazz Festival in Oldenburg, Germany where I participated in an afternoon showing of their production Call Cutta in a Box.
Participate being the key word.
After purchasing my ticket I was directed to the performance space, in this case a non-descript office at the end of an equally non-descript hallway. It had an office desk with a computer and a chair, and another chair and table with a kettle on it in the corner. Nothing was happening and nobody was there. I sat in the corner chair for a few minutes before the phone on the desk rang and I began an hour-long phone and Skype conversation with a 24 year-old telemarketer in Calcutta. We spoke about the weather in our respective locales, what we had planned for the weekend, we sang each other songs. She had me draw a portrait based on her voice and then, through some clever tech, she used the printer beside me to run off an actual digital shot of her face to compare. Through more wizardry she turned on the kettle and had me make myself a cup of tea. It was by far the most intimate experience I’ve had in the theatre but oddly it wasn’t a sense of the intimate I left with. I left feeling huge. Universal.
Three years later we at Theatre Replacement have been given the gift to produce Rimini Protokoll’s largest work -100% Vancouver in this case, though they themselves have completed it as 100% Berlin and 100% Vienna in the last couple of years. It’s not an easy gift mind you. It has 100 layers of wrapping paper with the layers closer to the actual prize being frustratingly hard to remove. Nor is it a simple gift, considering bits and pieces of it are scattered all over the city. But it is a gift. Wonderfully complex, sincere, and regardless of its enormous size, gloriously intimate.
I remember moving here in the early nineties after growing up in a very homogenous neighborhood in Ottawa. Of walking through Vancouver’s downtown for the first time or living in the Downtown Eastside, or biking through Shaughnessy, or grocery shopping at Nanaimo and Hastings, or smorgasborging in Little India and sensing the city’s multiple individual personalities generating a whole. 100% Vancouver does the same but constructs this diversity on the stage in 80 minutes. And it will be fascinating to watch.
Maybe it’s the fact Vancouver is still a teenager? and that we, its current citizens, are actively raising her that makes the city so engaging. Or that the city still holds this aura of escape for those of us who moved here. Or that new here is actually new, not a replacement of something that’s run its course, as in so many older, jaded places. Regardless, the opportunity to represent Vancouver through a cross section of its people is not only monumental in its execution but I expect it to reaffirm why I decided to stay here in the first place.
I can’t wait to see this developing and fluid place we’ve decided to call home in the flesh.
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