100% Cork

'100% Cork' presented by Una McKevitt / Rimini Protokoll for Cork Midsummer Festival. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

'100% Cork' presented by Una McKevitt / Rimini Protokoll for Cork Midsummer Festival. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

'100% Cork' presented by Una McKevitt / Rimini Protokoll for Cork Midsummer Festival. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

'100% Cork' presented by Una McKevitt / Rimini Protokoll for Cork Midsummer Festival. Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

The German theatre collective Rimini Protokoll defines the work it makes as ‘reality theatre’, dramatic work that finds a place in the interzone between reality and fiction. Rimini Protokoll has been to Cork before, with Best Before, a collaborative, staged, multi-player video game produced for Cork Midsummer 2010, while collective member Stefan Kaegi curated last year’s Parallel Cities programme for the festival. This new work, produced as part of Cork Midsummer 2013, purports equally to be of and about the city of Cork; that it is, but the model – using 100 representatives of a city to go behind numbers and statistics – is one that was begun in 2008, with the show 100% Berlin, and has since been transposed to diverse locations including London, Dresden and Tokyo, indicating a more transient kind of rootedness in the city of Cork than the show initially suggests.

Photo: Marcin Lewandowski

Nonetheless, if a model works – and there is much about it that does – why change it? The premise behind the 100% productions is straightforward: choose 100 people representing a cross section of a city’s population, bring them together to tell their stories on stage through the use of numbers, surveys and statistics, and see what insights appear. In this instance we find out, for example, what the representatives of the Cork population think about abortion, gay marriage, or believe about capitalism and the debt crisis. The cross-section is deliberately chosen – on stage are the very old, the very young, the single, the married, the gay, the straight, the content and the miserable. But it is not precise – there was, for example, no persuading any member of the Polish community to go on stage, and a Lithuanian expat is the nearest we come here to understanding the mentality of our Eastern neighbours.

With the help of Irish theatre director Una Mckevitt, as well as live and produced music, the production is fluid, engaging and visually compelling, with overhead cameras and a revolving stage used to show the participants forming graphs and pie-charts, indicating what they are doing with their lives at various hours of the day and night, or at one stage, voting secretly in the dark, using only torchlights to tell us how much money they earn, or whether they have ever cheated on a partner (surprise, surprise, a significant number have). It’s great fun, interesting, and appeared particularly engaging for much of the audience, nearly all of whom seemed to know someone on the stage, although, at nearly two hours (and no interval) the format – of questions asked and answers given – does begin to wear after a time.

The show presents information and insights, but afterwards, one of the biggest questions remains unanswered. What we have learned may linger, and certainly the images of participants crossing and re-crossing the stage have a visual impact that stores in the memory, but what exactly is the point to the production remains unclear. I may have learned what goes on behind the statistics, I may now be able to put a face to a number, I may be reminded that all is not always as it seems, and not to judge or pre-judge those walking alongside me on the street, but more than that it appears not. The format, of documentary theatre, is striking, engaging and original, and one in many ways appropriate in an era when fictitious stories often have less to say than those that are factually-based. Nonetheless, there is an absence here – of a larger message, or comment, or a universal concern – that leaves a hole at the heart of this otherwise compelling piece of work.

Rachel Andrews is an arts journalist and critic based in Cork.

  • Review
  • Theatre

100% Cork by Una McKevitt / Rimini Protokoll

28 - 30 June 2013

Produced by Cork Midsummer Festival
In Cork Opera House

Rimini Protokoll (Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel) and Una McKevitt

With: 100 people representing a cross-section of Cork's population.



Presented as part of Cork Midsummer Festival 2013: www.corkmidsummer.com