Airport Kids

Lola Arias & Stefan Kaegi

Rimini Protokoll

De Singel International Art Campus, Antwerp, and touring

(2009)

Review by Jackie Fletcher

Third-Culture-Children, also referred to as Trans-Culture-Children (TCCs) or World Nomads, spend much of their young lives in cultures and countries not their own. They are displaced young persons, sons and daughters of well-healed refugees and employees of multinational corporations. They attend international schools where the language is English, though many of them speak several languages and carry three passports. Since the term was coined in the '60s by Ruth Hill Useen, the lives and subcultures of these young people have been the subject of extensive research. The one trait they share is a complex concept of terms like 'home' and 'nationality' that differs considerably from anything found among the less mobile members of the global population.

In Airport Kids, there are Chinese, Brazilian, Canadian/French, Angolan, Romanian, Moroccan, Indonesian, Indian and Irish children, all of whom live in Switzerland at present, but follow their parents all over the globe, make and lose friends every couple of years and come from privileged backgrounds. Patrick got his first credit card when he was ten.

Still, if one is expecting to find a bunch of brats, dysfunctional and superior, one will be surprised. These kids are pluricultural; they are vocal; they are lonely and in the show they each have their own baggage container, a cramped metal space to call home, a place of privacy where they can keep their most cherished possessions. One has a drumkit, another pet snails, a third a tennis racket, a fourth an accordion. Their containers are moved around the stage and they emerge to tell part of their life stories and return to the safety of their own individual, mobile space. They form a rock band and appear in video projections on the side of each others containers; they share with us their experience of the past and their vision of the future.

Rimini Protocoll never disappoint and Airport Kids is a docu-fiction similiar in concept to Mnemopark (Avignon Festival, 2006) and Call Calcutta in a Box (Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels 2008), but entirely different in format. This is not theatre in the conventional sense of the word as Rimini Protocoll set out the obscure the boundaries between fiction and reality. Does the pretty young girl in the childish smock really want to be a soldier with her own private army and wage global warfare? Does the tiny mannekin from Beijing, who can't even remember his homeland, really want to establish a Chinese colony on Mars? It is hardly surprising that the 8-year-old Canadian/French munchkin, whose parents play in Swiss orchestras, should want to be the youngest child-star violinist ever. Patrick wants to be head of research and development at Philip Morris, just like his mother.

As director Kaegi says in the programme notes, these are pre-adoloscents who replicate the behaviour they see among their parents to form a miniature model society: they are the bosses, the high-ranking authorities, the top musicians and professors of the future. Equally, at other moments, they ignore universal regulations and make up rules from their own unique perspective. The show is a mixture of personal experiences and incidental opinions; it's a game and it's deadly serious.

Airport Kids opened at the Avignon Festival in 2008 and has been on tour ever since. Wherever they go, a week in Avignon, a weekend in Antwerp, they have to return to school in Lausanne on Monday morning and continue life as it passes for normal. During the show, they tear out the pages of Third Culture Kids, with its research into their world, screw them into balls and propel them one by one into the audience in a gesture that says: we're not the results of some sociological research project, we're ourselves. Whether their tales are fiction or reality or a blend of the two, this is an engaging performance in which we are allowed to view the weaknesses and the creativity beneath the tough exterior.