– Spring 2014

Teatro da Vertigem (and the City of São Paulo)

Marcos Moraes

Teatro da Vertigem, Última Palavra é a Penúltima (The Last Word Is the Penultimate One), 2008, theatre production performed at the underpass beneath Rua Xavier de Toledo, in the centre of São Paulo. Photograph: Edu Marin

Cities are stages of myriad cultural transformations driven by the different values of their many constituencies. Throughout the twentieth century, artistic contributions to the debate about this urban reality have become increasingly important, while artists themselves have become key agents in this process of constant renewal. As much as through gentrification, however, it is through actions that point out, amplify, reinforce, denounce, provoke, negate and create situations that artists intervene in the city — an approach that suggests a shift from a modernist conception of the artist into one in which experience is understood as the basis for action. The performances, interventions, occupations and itineraries of the artistic group Teatro da Vertigem constitute such a response to the city of São Paulo: their actions reconstruct the Brazilian metropolis as an imagined 
city, a depicted city, a submerged city and a hidden city; a built or rebuilt city, a reconfigured city and imprisoned city; even a desired city.

Teatro da Vertigem (literally, ‘Theatre of Vertigo’) emerged in the early 1990s 
in the context of São Paulo’s strong experimental theatre scene.1 Over the last two decades, and under the direction of Antônio Araújo, the group has developed a practice characterised by a consistent engagement with the urban reality of
São Paulo and the importance of collective research. In the so-called Biblical Trilogy — composed of O Paraíso Perdido (Paradise Lost, 1992), O Livro de Jó
 (The Book of Job, 1995) and Apocalipse

  1. Between 1950 and 1990 the following theatre groups formed in São Paulo, among others: Teatro Brasileiro de Comédia (TBC); Teatro de Arena; Teatro Oficina; Royal Bexiga’s Company; Pessoal do Vitor; Pod Minoga; Mambembe; Teatro do Ornitorrinco; Ponkã; Boi Voador; XPTO; Tapa; Parlapatões; Patifes
& Paspalhões; and Companhia do Latão.

  2. Other performances include: A Última Palavra é a Penúltima (The Last Word Is the Penultimate One, 2008), inspired by Gilles Deleuze’s text ‘L’Épuisé’ (‘The Exhausted’, 1992) and performed in the underpass beneath Rua Xavier de Toledo, in the centre of São Paulo; Dido e Enéas (2008), based on the eponymous seventeenth-century opera by Henry Purcell and performed in a warehouse of the São Paulo Municipal Theatre where sets and props are produced; and Kastelo (2010), inspired by Franz Kafka’s Das Schloss (The Castle, 1926) and performed at the SESC Avenida Paulista in São Paulo. On view while the building was being restored, this last work had actors performing on platforms and service elevators as the audience watched through glass windows.

  3. Teatro da Vertigem, ‘BR–3’, available at http://www.teatrodavertigem.com.br/site/index2.php (last accessed on 8 October 2013).

  4. Teatro TAIB was inaugurated in 1960 and operated from within the Casa do Povo, which was itself founded by the Brazilian-Israeli Cultural Institute in 1953 in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.