Radio Muezzin – Theater Group Rimini Protokoll performed in Istanbul
Interview with Stefan Kaegi (director) by Ayşe Draz
In their October program, “Radio Muezzin” project by Stefan Kaegi of Rimini Protokoll will be performed in Istanbul. We interviewed Stefan Kaegi about this documentary theatre piece which questions the transformation, in Cairo, Egypt, of the call to prayer in the age of its technical reproduction
Ayşe Draz: How long did the production of the “Radio Muezzin” project take and how involved were you in the process of “transformation of the call to prayer in the age of its technical reproduction”?
Stefan Kaegi: I had read in the newspaper about the planned centralization of the voices in 2008. I was impressed by the decision to replace a religious ritual by a technical method and I started to wonder, what happens with the people who lose their voices. The piece allows me to narrate Cairo through different persons and this gives Europeans a more complex image of the middle east than the usual terrorist-pictures that we are used to see on western televisions.
A.D: What difficulties or advantages have you encountered working in Egypt, Cairo and with non-actor Egyptians?
S.K: I always try to use theatre not to show the virtuosity of gifted actors, but to focus on life. Our world is already itself full of stagings, roll plays, entertainment and fiction. So sometimes it’s just theatre enough to frame it. In Cairo during Mubarak-times I found it especially important to let the people talk. Religiously engaged people were held under constant surveillance then. And people in the west had a very distorted image of them. Muezzins would normally not be allowed to speak for themselves. On Egyptian TV they were rather a stereo-type of stupid simple people from the village in some Soap Opera. But I found out they have much more to tell…
A.D: How would you define the contours of ‘documentary theatre’, what sorts of tension exists between the documentary form and the medium of theatre?
S.K: In the 70s some authors in Germany called their work documentary theatre, when they researched texts out there and transformed them for actors. But their plays were full of lessons and messages. We don’t want to teach. Theatre gives the chance to listen to people longer than the usual 3-minutes-clip in the daily TV-news allows it. Theatre can be a meeting point, where Aristotle’s’ idea of identification can take a new dimension when you follow somebody’s fragile story who is not a made up character but could be your neighbor. We try to let people speak for themselves and to invite people that have something to say rather than people who just want to be applauded to because they are talented in some handicrafts…