MNEMOPARK / How much art can the valleys bear?
Stefan Kaegi invites us on an unusual and entertaining journey, a trip across an endless Switzerland in a miniature train, a scaled-down model that travels through a landscape of beautiful mountains, sweet little chalets and farmers with wonderful cows. The world of Mnemopark consists of a 1:87 model railway. The journey through a Switzerland scaled down to a 37-metre railway track is accompanied by anecdotes and reminiscences, facts and imaginings. The play is a film shot in front of the audience: a documentary science fiction. With the aid of a mini-camera, we penetrate
the model, like Tarkovsky in Stalker, into the zones of a mysterious country. We are accompanied on this mysterious trip by five pensioners, model railway enthusiasts, not professional actors, and one actress. When they tell us how many hens there are in Helvetia, or when they make funny but surprising comparisons, they create statistics that have
no equal. The whole time they are followed by a miniature camera built into the trains’ engines, and so all the details of this magical framework are blown up to life size. Just as there is documentary film, so we might call this documentary theatre. It is certainly an original form of political theatre for the 21st century; it is a portrayal of a country, a portrayal that is partial, but anchored in reality, a portrayal that analyses social and economic relationships.
About Rimini Protokoll:
The three directors in the Rimini Protokoll association – Helgard Haug, Stephan Kaegi and Daniel Wetz – met in the 1990s while studying applied theatre science in Giessen. Rimini Protokoll is interested in themes from real life,
with each of its creations arising from careful study of a concrete situation taken from a specific environment – and portrayed by amateur actors who play themselves. Reality and fiction merge and overlap, so that it is hard to tell whether you are watching drama or real life. What they are attempting to do is to break down the ‘given’ nature of reality, revealing all its aspects. Their approach marries sensitivity with curiosity and surprising connections.
Stefan Kaegi (b. 1972), writer and director of the play "Mnemopark - A Mini Train World", studied visual arts and applied theatre science in Giessen, Germany. He has written and directed a number of radio plays, and as a theatre writer and director has worked in several different parts of the world. Working with the same creative team, he looks for different actors for each project. In Argentina, Brazil, Graz and Poland he has worked with local artists in an urban setting and staged documentary dramas and site-specific projects. He works with real life interchanged with fiction, and the originality of his work lies in the fact that he works with non-professional actors: four eighty-year-old women in wheelchairs reminiscing about their past as Formula 1 pilots (Kreuzworträtsel Boxenstopp, 2000), trigger-happy adolescents describe the enjoyment they gain from shooting, and
develop their fighting and defence strategies (Shooting Bourbaki, 2002), doctors talk about their experiences with death (Deadline, 2004). His next project was Sabenation, on which he worked with seven victims of the collapse of
Belgian airline Sabena. In autumn 2004 Rimini Protokoll produced Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna’s Burgtheater, while in spring 2005 there followed Call Cutta – a tour of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, conducted live over a mobile phone.
In 2005 Mnemopark won the jury prize at the Festival Politik im freien Theater in Berlin. It has been shown in many countries – Theater Basel / Festival Belluard Fribourg/ Festival Politik im freien Theater, HAU Berlin / Tanzquartier Wien/
Mousonturm Frankfurt / Festival d’Avignon / Festival Tampere, Finland / Le-Maillon Strasbourg / Teatre Lliure Barcelona
/ Théatre de Vidy Lausanne / Festival VISU Dieppe / Culturgest Lisboa / Festival TransAmériques Montréal. Kaegi’s ‘Mnemopark’ creates a sly and witty contrast between the wishes and reminiscences of ordinary Swiss people with the hyper-objective world of statistics and the absurdly exaggerated dream world of Indian Bollywood. The contrast is heightened by the use of fascinating multimedia special effects on one hand, and on the other the movingly comical performances of amateurs playing themselves. Still, neither technology nor, even, the play itself can equal the fascination that arises from the model landscape, which continued to captivate many people some time after the final applause. The only question is whether this can fill an evening. It certainly can.
A model world is blown up into a large-scale film, created live in front of the audience. It allows the elasticity of concepts such as documentary, fiction and reality to be played out in a highly intelligent way.
Theater der Zeit
A magical solemnity wafts through the evening, in theatre that gives back everything that had seemed lost in art. Der Landbote … sometimes you find yourself thinking that Kaegi’s mnemotechical journey is an Olympic discipline – with Dio as the head of all the miners and the Matterhorn as the seat of Mnemosyne, who sits there counting the remaining cows and remembering how it used to be.