by Lynn on June 13, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Hearn Generating Station, 440 Unwin St, Toronto, Ont.

Created by Rinini Protokoll

Situation Rooms is a fascinating immersive theatre/art/film creation by Rimini Protokoll, a German group. about the arms trade and how it affects people around the world.

The show kicked off the Luminato Festival that opened June 10. The media got to see it June 9. There was lots of buzz about Luminato because of where the hub for ticket shows, concerts and other activities would take place—the newly cleaned up and slightly renovated Hearn Generating Station 440 Unwin, by Cherry beach.

The show takes place inside and instillation built inside the Hearn Generating Station. It means that the audience of 20 walks through the installation of various rooms, holding a personal iPod, following the instructions on the iPod which tells you where to go and what you should do along the way.

We each hear a slightly different story of real people involved in the arms/weapons business. There is a boy soldier; a doctor from Doctor’s Without Borders who detailed his day of working in terrible conditions, and the wounds to which he tended. There is the business man in Germany arranging a deal to sell weapons.

We go from room to room learning about all these real stories that happen in Germany, Russia, South Sudan, India, Syria and Pakistan to name a few. Over the course of the journey we will see other members of the 20 person group in the same room, each watching their IPod for instructions etc.

The show involves the gentlest of audience participation. We see on our screen two businessmen shaking hands and we will be instructed to shake hands with someone in the group who has just come in the room. Someone will help us put on a jacket or coat. We will eat a bowl of borscht that has been served to us.

The rooms vary in form and style. There is an operating room; a board room of a corporation; a make-shift living room in Syria. We go into the boy soldier’s room.

Each iPod is individual yet tells the same story from another angle. Each scene is seven minutes long.

I appreciated the brains and imagination of Rimini Protokoll—a group from Germany—who created this. They found all the real people we are watching on the IPod and flew them to Germany to film their sequences in a huge 14 room house there. The result is on our IPod.

What if by some chance you get lost? The minders and support staff for this show are always there to help. We are instructed that if we get lost, as I did, that we just exit by any of the doors marked “Exit” and a minder will come and set the lost soul straight.

I wasn’t sure if a corridor was a room and I somehow skipped something but righted the situation by myself.

At one point I was supposed to sit in a board room and sat in the wrong chair—someone from the support staff came into the room, gently tapped me on the shoulder and indicated the chair at the head of the table as the place I should sit.

But it certainly is not for anyone with mobility issues—you climb up and down stairs; climb a ladder; kneel on the floor; lay on a medical bed. It’s wise to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.

I think it’s really provocative and I just love the brains that went into creating, filming, and building it all. I must confess that with all the distraction of people coming into rooms and leaving and of following the instructions, some of the story got lost.

Typing on the screen told us who the characters were and where they came from, but I found I didn’t pay close enough attention because of other activity. I can’t remember the name of the boy soldier, or his country—I think I should.

I will write about the Hearn Generating Station next time I go to the Hearn. When I was there it was really only a dress rehearsal for the place. To comment now would be unfair. Best to have the time to wander in the place first and then write about it.

There are various performance spaces—for dance, theatre and concerts. There will be a theatre piece in three parts called The James Plays about the various kings of Scotland. It was a huge hit in the West End. It’s a coup getting the plays to come here. Rufus Wainwright will do his Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall show as part of Luminato.

So lots to see over the 16 days of Luminato.

Situation Rooms plays at Luminato until June 26.

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