FTA Review: ‘100% Montréal’ paints a city’s candid portrait

Documentary theatre piece makes its World Premiere at Place des Arts

100% Montréal (Photo: FTA/Trung)

Just who are Montrealers and what’s really on their minds?

Opening the 11th edition of the FTA – Festival TransAmériques is the World Premiere of an innovative piece of documentary theatre that candidly paints an organic portrait of our city’s identity in a courageous, comic, and celebratory form.

In Rimini Protokoll Collective’s 100% Montréal, one hundred citizens – women, men, adults, children, teens, francophones, anglophones, allophones, atheists, Muslisms, Jews – take to the stage to incarnate and reflect our community’s demographics as accurately as possible. The show consists of a series of straw polls – first, descriptive questions about data like age, income, and nationality; then, prescriptive ones on politics, morality, and lifestyle choices. As personal stories are shared and public opinions are revealed, the participants move onstage to create diagrams that provide a curious living and breathing snapshot of a complex society.

100% Montréal (Photo: FTA/Trung)

Dubbed as “raw reality theatre”, the play is performed in its entirety by non-actors, resulting in a refreshing honesty and simplicity. (In their scepticism of current representation in theatre, the team of author-directors Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, and Daniel Wetzel have become notorious for the practice of bringing “real people” to the stage.)

Indeed, 100% Montréal is less about facts and more about people.

Perhaps just as fascinating as watching dry census statistics come to life on stage is observing the audience’s own (at times peculiarly fervid) reactive commentary to what is presumably its own x-ray. Resounding applause here, excruciating silence there… how stirring to witness provocative questions such as “who thinks there was too much English/French in this show?” produce such palpable tension in a room.

Many of the survey results come as no surprise, but other revelations are startlingly unsettling or formidable. It’s rather reassuring to discover among our neighbours that, even in our divergence of opinions on some topical matters, there is an almost unanymous compassion, understanding, and tolerance with regards to certain other issues. Maybe we’re convictable tax evaders, but we’ve got heart when it comes to pooches and plants.

A few projection glitches and lost children aside, there’s little to fault herein. A pacing concern to note is that while the individual introductions at the outset of the show are commendable for extending each performer the courtesy of briefly presenting him/herself to an initially eager audience, one hundred human subjects times ten seconds adds up. Once the questionnaire findings take centre stage, however, the wheels begin to turn and we’re fully along for the ride.

Surprisingly moving, 100% Montreal is an enthralling exercise of psychological, social and political examination of the individual and collective self and of the systems that govern us. It’s a winning choice for this year’s FTA and a befitting selection for the official programming of Montreal’s 375th anniversary.

Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief Camila Fitzgibbon

The Rimini Protokoll Collective presents “100% Montreal”
When: May 25, 26, 27, 28, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Where: Place des Arts  – Théâtre Jean-Duceppe (175 Sainte-Catherine West)
Duration: 1h40 in French with English surtitles
Admission: $40-60
Box Office: Online tickets | 514 844 3822 / 1 866 984 3822

Concept and direction: Helgard Haug + Stefan Kaegi + Daniel Wetzel
Set design: Marc Jungreithmeier + Mascha Mazur
Performed by 100 Montrealers
Live music: Navet Conit

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1 Comment on FTA Review: ‘100% Montréal’ paints a city’s candid portrait

  1. I just got back form seeing the Saturday representation. The show was very charming. It reminded me of how everyone, absolutely everyone, has an interesting story to tell and how we all have so much in common despite our individuality. Some moments really brought tears to my eyes. It was a beautiful show and a beautiful concept, bravo to all involved.

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