100 % Montréal
100 citizens dive in feet first in an astonishing collective X-ray, incarnating 100% of public opinion about Montreal. A vibrant, exhilarating exercise in self-portrayal!
Just who are Montrealers, and what’s on their minds? Onstage 100 citizens portray 100% of the city’s population. Men, women or trans, adults, children and teenagers, atheists, Muslims and Jews, they draw a map of Montreal in a vibrant, exhilarating exercise in self-portrayal.
In this survey probe by the masters of documentary theatre the Rimini Protokoll collective, Montrealers will see themselves as they really are. Who avoids paying taxes? Who is against the wearing of the veil in public places? Who has cheated on his/her lover or spouse? Without any filters, without beating around the bush, the courageous participants of 100% Montréal respond to all questions, both the banal and the very serious. Moving onstage as though in an organic diagram – never have statistics been so full of life! – they incarnate public opinion in sensitive fashion, dramatically revealing its unpredictable movements. A candid look at the multiple identities of our city.
Concept and direction Helgard Haug + Stefan Kaegi + Daniel Wetzel
Set design Marc Jungreithmeier + Marscha Mazur
Performed by 100 Montrealers
Photo Sandra Then
Presented by BMO Groupe financier
With the support of Goethe-Institut Montréal + Fondation Cole
In association with Société de la Place des Arts
An event part of the official programming of the 375e anniversaire de Montréal
Written by Philippe Couture
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on May 25, 2017
Helgard Haug + Stefan Kaegi + Daniel Wetzel (Berlin) Rimini Protokoll
A leading figure in documentary and participative theatre in Europe, the Rimini Protokoll collective was among the first to experiment with reality theatre without actors, with plays performed entirely by citizens recounting their own stories, or by spectators engaged in an interactive experience.
The trio consisting of Stefan Kaegi, Helgard Haug and Daniel Wetzel, close collaborators ever since their studies at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Giessen, are interested in the frontiers between reality and fiction, using the tools of the stage to make that reality come to life. Their shows are characterized by highly inventive and original interactive staging mechanisms.
Political by nature, the works of the Berlin collective are also imbued with humanity and empathy, approaching the question of identity from a perspective of living together, of curiosity about the other. FTA spectators no doubt have fond memories of Mnemopark (2007), a remarkable journey across Switzerland as seen through the eyes of retirees who were keen model train buffs. Since then Rimini Protokoll has presented the series Remote – walkabouts that question the use of public spaces, and Situation Rooms – an interactive experience about the arms industry, not to mention the show Lagos Business Angels – a portrait of Nigerian businessmen. They have also created many shows as part of their series 100 % City, snapshots of Berlin, Tokyo, London, Vancouver or Philadelphia. The formula paints a picture of a big city by letting its citizens speak out, with the statistical portrait augmented by visual representation.
Ever since you started out you have worked only with non-actors, striving to echo reality as accurately and directly as possible. Why that approach?
There is something exhilarating and risky in telling true stories about the people who are onstage, in exposing genuine intimacy. Above all, the citizens we invite onstage are the specialists of their own reality, conveying a natural theatricality. They impose a different connection to the art of theatre because they avoid the traditional dominant-dominated relationship between the director and the actor. What they offer instead is an invitation to engage in a sustained dialogue. It is also more interesting to observe someone truly “live” a scene than to watch an actor “working”. In other words, we have little interest in the actor’s technique, as we are much more interested in his or her presence and ability to incarnate something much greater than himself. In 100 % City, that big something is the relationship between the urban space and the community, the feeling of belonging to a city, of being transformed and very much a part of it.
Big cities like Montreal are increasingly ethnically diverse and thus susceptible to conflicts opposing, for example, citizens divided by religious values. How do you deal with that explosive material?
A city is in fact a complex organism consisting of people with often radically opposed opinions, who never speak to each other even though they often live in the same neighbourhoods and walk the same streets side by side on a daily basis. That lack of communication is quite astonishing, and it is due in part to the fact that our mechanisms for public or social discussion, such as elections, never favour direct conversation among citizens. There is no agora, no public space where debate can occur. Our show tries to create that space by relying on statistics, even if that approach has limits that we are very much aware of.
The strength of 100 % City lies in its ability to put all those people in the same space and to invite them to assume their rightful place, but especially to discuss or at least consider once and for all the presence of their neighbours, to take account of their position. Conflict naturally occurs but it also creates surprising spaces for tolerance, compassion and understanding. The city will never be a romantic, idealistic space where everyone flourishes and loves his neighbour, but what is clear is that dialogue is necessary and stimulating for one and all. The creative process involved in mounting the show, and also the performances, allows for the creation of a new space where social, ethnic, economic and geographic barriers – the usual compartmentalization of the city –soften and become less pronounced.
Apart from urban disparities, does 100% City allow you to note typical identities in each of the cities observed? Is it possible that in big cities today, as complex as they are, citizens share a common identity?
Nowadays identity is multiple and fragmentary, but it seems that a shared identity does in fact exist, in that citizens share the same territory. The show portrays big differences in people’s lifestyle choices and political opinions, but we also note in each city an important core of common elements. That must be taken with a grain of salt, however, given that everyone is also playing a role and often conceals, whether consciously or not, what they really think. Perhaps in this piece some light is shed indirectly on those social roles.
Sometimes the common core becomes apparent in the way questions are asked. Depending on the sensibilities of one city or another, different words will be employed. In Montreal for example, we noticed that the issues of bilingualism and the Anglophone minority are very delicate topics, which influenced the wording of the questions. Immigration also takes different forms in each city. That reality in Montreal prompted us, for example, to pay special attention to the Haitian community. Thus by meticulously selecting the questions that we ask of 100 citizens, the narrative of the city on display takes into account some of the political and historical background, for obviously that background contains elements that help define the shared identity.
“The Berlin-based trio Rimini Protokoll created a curious, fascinating and surprisingly moving piece of raw reality theatre that comforts and shocks in its revelations about our city’s wonderful people.”
aussietheatre.com, 2012-05-04, about 100 % Melbourne
“The genius of 100 % Melbourne is how it forces the audience to answer the questions themselves. Would we be happy/brave/stupid enough to answer them in front of strangers, let alone in front of family and friends?”
aussietheatre, 2012-05-04, about 100 % Melbourne
“The show that turns dry census statistics into live performance theatre.”
The Guardian, 2012-06-29, about 100 % London
“If it’s in vogue right now, Rimini Protokoll has long been ahead of the curve. The Germany-based collective has been putting non-performers onstage for more than a decade (…) and has been credited with inventing a new form of documentary theatre.”