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Germany

Daimler shareholders treated to Shakespeare drama at meeting

Documentary theater group Rimini Protokoll infiltrated the annual shareholders meeting of German carmaker Daimler, blurring the line between real life drama and performance.

Actors on a stage

Rimini theater group surprised Daimler shareholders with an impromtu performance

German theater group Rimini Protokoll is the label for the works of artists Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel. Best described as documentary theater, the three directors are redefining familiar theater and bringing a touch of Shakespeare into no less a forum than Daimler's annual shareholders meeting.

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

For Kaegli, Daimler offers the perfect example of a reality drama.

"In many ways it's a theater show,” he says. "Because when you look at how it is set up, it has one of the most expensive stage designs that you can find in Berlin. The protagonists are much more highly paid than ordinary actors, probably most comparable to opera singers. You can watch them playing out intrigues and power struggles like every Shakespeare drama," says Kaegli.

Challenging Daimler

Rimini has been preparing for Daimler for almost a year. Two previous attempts failed when the organizers pulled out, fearing the actors were planning some sort of sabotage.

Daniel Wetzel (left) and Helgard Haug

The German theater group is the brainchild of Wetzel (left) and Haug

In fact says Kaegli, it isn't about dramatic intervention. The aim of the group is to challenge the traditional way audiences participate in theater.

Access to the annual meetings is restricted to shareholders. To take part each of the 150 Rimini participants had to become a Daimler shareholder themselves, either by buying a stake or borrowing someone else's voting rights for the day.

This, according to Taug, allows them, "to open Daimler to a theater audience and to give them a role and a part," she says.

While the idea of a 12 hour play on the rising and falling fortunes of German industry may seem anathema to entertainment, most of Wednesday's audience members were full of praise for the experience and the natural tension of the event.

"You see the enterprises presenting their case on one side and on the other the critical stockholders. It's quite intense," said one novice shareholder.

Daimler was no accidental choice. The annual meeting is the biggest business event in Berlin by a big star of German history. Germany has an emotional attachment to its automobile industry and as such takes the fall in fortunes of such a stalwart personally.

Show of support?

Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" - William Shakespeare

But support for Daimler is not unconditional. The prospect of financial losses brought on by the global economic crisis is unpleasant. There is also disatisfaction with Daimler dipping its toes into subsidiaries such as EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company) a group that manufactures military vehicles.

"Daimler wanted to do something which was a number too big," says Kaegi, "it wanted to take on the world," he says.

Most importantly, it is a drama that unfolds spontaneously. Nobody knows exactly what will happen and there are no clear definitions of hero and anti-hero.

"I'm really surprised by how sympathetic the men on stage are," says 27-year-old participant Michael. "Normally I just read everything filtered through the press and journalists but I'm really surprised by how normal everything feels here," he says.

Far less impactful on the 'real shareholder', Rimini's event is geared towards the acting audience members. Many have little or no experience in the field and with no real idea of what they are watching, watch all the more intently.

"I don't think people know what they are doing here. I think maybe there's not such a big difference between theatre and life at all," said one undercover shareholder.

Author: Tanya Wood

Editor: Robert Mudge

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