100% Montreal surveys the city
The eleventh edition of Festival TransAmériques launches with an X-ray play about Montreal
By Luc Archambault
Who are Montrealers? Where do they come from? Were they born here? If not, where? What are their dreams? What if Montreal’s population was represented onstage by one hundred individuals, giving a cross-section of the community? To these questions, and a lot more, the German collective Rimini Protokoll (Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel) has gathered one hundred persons representing 100% of Montreal’s population: 52 women and 48 men aged between seven and 93, from all ethnic groups and faiths, atheist, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, in an attempt to draw a map of the jubilee city. The same exercise had been done before in Berlin, Vienna, Karlsruhe, Köln, Melbourne, London, Zürich, Penang, Yogyakarta, Philadelphia, Vancouver – in more than thirty cities in total since 2008.
How were these hundred individuals chosen? It began three months ago with the casting of one person who’s mission was to recruit another within 24 hours, who then had to recruit another, and so on. To assemble a group that mirrored the demographic reality of Montreal, all had to fit specific criteria of age, gender, household type, geography (from everywhere within the island), ethnicity. The one hundred also reflect language spoken, with 39% of the population speaking English.
… the German collective Rimini Protokoll… has gathered one hundred persons representing 100% of Montreal’s population…
Each individual has his or her own personal history and baggage, but still represents 19,000 other citizens. Recruited under the guidance of Florence Béland, an immigration consultant with a background in anthropology, they are even given an unscripted moment at an open-mike to vent their personal views. Even the public in attendance is given its chance to ask questions to the performers and all the comments of participants are translated and transcribed on a subheading screen.
The show thereafter becomes a protracted multi-sectional analysis of this sociological makeup. The group divides itself according to different realities: men, women and even trans, born here or somewhere else, having children or not, and so on. After close to one hour and forty minutes of such Manichean statistical analysis (besides the opening where all the participants present themselves), this evolutionary organic diagram becomes a little difficult to assimilate. And this is my sole criticism of this show – its length. At over a hundred minutes and counting, all these organic incarnations of the statistical realities of our city tend to become a muddle difficult to swallow, and the last fifteen minutes in particular are quite inedible. Too many figures, too many realities, simply too much.
The concept is excellent, no doubt, and the least that can be said is that the result is an in depth X-ray of the population of Montreal. Everyone is given the chance to express themselves, except the homeless, the official reason being that they live off the grid and do not appear in statistics, which seems to me as an easy explanation. The same goes for the First Nations who are incredibly absent, albeit for a woman of Inuit origin, while Montreal has the largest aboriginal urban population. Perhaps it would have been justified to extend the preparation time for adequate researching and recruiting of members of these often forgotten segments of the population, which would have provided a better portrait of all cross-sections of the population.
But these objections aside, this is a really interesting show. It gives the Festival TransAmériques a great send-off for its eleventh edition. This will, no doubt about it, arouse many follow-up discussions from all those who will have seen this ‘organic diagram’ take shape.
100% Montreal runs from May 25 to May 28 at Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, Place des Arts.
More information at Festival TransAmériques
Images: courtesy of Festival TransAmériques
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Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.