Theatre outside of theatres: Live art as a way of restructuring togetherness
Updated: Nov 24
This post is a summary of the urbanology talk with Stefan Kaegi (Co-Founder of Rimini Protokoll) and Caroline Barneaud (Head of International Artistic Projects at the Théâtre de Vidy, Lausanne). During a lively public discussion at the Villa Boccard, they dived into three joint projects between Rimini Protokoll and the Théâtre Vidy: Cargo Congo-Lausanne - a documentary truck ride where a truck has been transformed into a moving theater, Utopolis - an urban immersion starting in 48 urban places where small groups are converging into a horizontally woven tale of a utopian society, and Shared Landscapes - an experiment in bringing theatre outside its walls and outside the city.
In Cargo X, a year-long project of Rimini Protokoll which has been adapted to different geographical and political contexts, truck drivers tell their own story while driving a real truck transformed into a theatre stage. The spectators sit where commodities are stocked and move around the city and countryside as the story unfolds. The ideas are inspired by Stephen’s experience as a hitch-hiker in Bulgaria, coming in contact with many truck drivers. The first version of the piece was created in Sofia, but it has toured in many places since, including Shanghai… and Lausanne!
In each place, Stefan met local truck drivers, developing the theatre piece collaboratively together. In Lausanne, Cargo Congo-Lausanne began in the Théâtre de Vidy where Roger, a Congolese lorry driver, told participants about his journey back to Congo to sell his truck. The immersive theatrical and documentary experience evolves in the unpredictable realm of public space; sometimes stuck in a traffic jam, or in a sudden storm- no performance is the same. A public discussion in the urbanology talk ensued around this feature being “reality as special effect”.
Rimini Protokoll’s theatre creates fragile moments of great strength, in which the boundaries between the “staged” and the “real” get subtly blurred.
The conversation evolves as Caroline and Stefan present Utopolis. This participatory theatre piece (premiered in Manchester, UK as part of the Manchester International Festival 2019) starts in 48 different places in the city: restaurants, hairdressers, justice court, architects office etc. Small groups of up to 8 people were given a portable speaker that provided them with instructions as they roamed around the city. Step by step, as groups meet each other in new places, they are confronted with questions about justice, health and nature; prompted to answer different questions as to what would a utopian society be regarding these topics. At the end of the piece, the 300 participants all meet in a single space and are confronted with a horizontally woven utopian tale. The theatre piece ends with informal discussions around statements made by participants… and a party!
Shared Landscapes / Paysages Partagés
Shared Landscapes is the third and last project presented during this urbanology talk: still in the making at the moment of the talk, the project didn’t even have a name. The vision behind it is to take theatre both beyond its dedicated buildings and beyond the urban realm to create outdoor theatrical spaces in peri-urban places. It aims at decentralizing theatre to bridge the cultural gap between urban and countryside regions.
Shared Landscapes seeks to instigate new relationships between actors, public and the surrounding nature.
Seven artists have been invited to conceive projects which are at the same time grounded in the specific place outside Lausanne and flexible enough to be adapted to other peripheral places around Europe. Shared landscapes will premiere in Lausanne in 2023.
The Théâtre de Vidy is a theater unlike any other. It was built in 1964 for the swiss exhibition and was part of other temporary structures created on the lake. These were meant to last for at most six months, which gives a modest and ephemeral touch to the theater. In 2021, the Théâtre de Vidy is undergoing major renovations, which challenges its activities. A part of them are relocated in other existing theaters, but other, more experimental, take place in the public space and help the theater move beyond its walls. Caroline sees this transition period as an opportunity to rethink the relationship between theater, public and public spaces in order to create new “fragile communities” for the duration of the performance.
Rimini Protokoll is a theater-label co-founded by Stephen Kaegi in 2000, which aims at expanding the means of theater to create new perspectives on reality. It creates hybrid theatrical settings, where actors and spectators often play their own role or evolve in everyday places and public spaces. The city is often at the core of Rimini Protokoll’s reflections, and Stefan Kaegi’s work is inspirational for urbz as it develops ways to involve citizens in a narrative, non-technical way in city-making.