Thursday, September 28, 2023

CULTURE | 16-02-2019 09:32

"Bombón vecinal" gives new meaning to ‘neighbourhood watch’

Thrilling co-production from Teatro Bombón and FIBA blurs lines between fiction and reality, with its urban poetry leading audiences deep into Abasto neighbourhood of Buenos Aires.

Teatro Bombón began as a series of short plays in March, 2014. Curated by Monina Bonelli and Cristian Scotton, it consists of site-specific short pieces by very different creators from various artistic fields. It is defined by its aesthetic and generational diversity and performed simultaneously and à la carte. To date, it has been presented at a host of cultural spaces, with great success.

A co-production of Teatro Bombón and the Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires (FIBA), Bombón vecinal is a new project that combines the format of its forerunner with a strong element of community service, working with people living in a certain neighbourhood – in this case Abasto.

During the recent performing arts festival, it formed part of the schedule of Maratón Abasto. This new section of FIBA invited audiences to this very specific and traditional quarter on Buenos Aires (the barrio is an undeniable icon of local independent performing arts scene) to participate in artistic activities for all tastes, both in and outdoors, and all for free.

Bombón vecinal proved to be a storming success – it brought so many spectators in Abasto, for example, that once FIBA was finished, the show was extended throughout February, taking place every Friday.

In the brochure publicising FIBA’s offerings, this series of short, half-an-hour-long pieces was described as an event that “expands across the neighbourhood and goes into the streets, takes over homes, shops, bridges, parks, squares, and sets out to discover (or re-discover) spaces – through theatre, music, video mapping and urban journeys – that only fiction can reveal.”

That’s accurate, but at the same time the “fiction” on display is made up of so much “reality.” Observers see the result of working with the actual life of those who live in Abasto. And it is through the eyes of these neighbours that the viewers rethink the streets that they may walk through, distracted, on any other day.

Bombón vecinal follows the line of post-dramatic theatre, a kind of theatre that challenges the genre itself, altering the very concept of fiction in Thespian art, in this specific case, through biographical and documentarian trends. It proved to be an important part of FIBA’s programme, especially the international section, which was defined by productions in which real lives and performances of self-experience were the dominant note.


According to the show’s programme, this site-specific work focuses on one block in Abasto as a “minimum unit of the city,” as a microcosm of the entire urban fabric. The area is then transformed into multiple ‘stages’ through the intervention of different stories and disciplines of art.

“In this confluence of the private and the public spheres, it gathers artists and neighbours to create pieces that question local identity and cohabitation,” the description continues.

Those living or working in this block in Abasto are our hosts, receiving the audience in their own apartments, studios or houses and offering their testimonies, whether as part of the series in indoor spaces or as touring pieces in the open air, as is the case in Zoraida. La reina del Abasto, written and directed by Mariano Stolkiner.

In many ways, this is indeed a sort of walking tour where – via headphones handed out with one’s ticket – the voice of Zoraida Saldarriaga, a Colombian immigrant who lives and works in the neighbourhood, regales us and takes us (departing from the aforementioned block) on a tour of the most meaningful local places that have marked different moments of her life: a supermarket, a telephone booth, a demolished building or a small park become new spots after listening to her story and the songs which are also meaningful to her. Thanks to this distinctive audio-guide, the viewer becomes not just a tourist but also a form of “voyeur” discovering the personal lives of the barrio’s inhabitants.

Another fine example of a ‘travel piece’ is No tengas miedo no, directed by Moro Anghileri and performed by Ana María Castel, a trained actress, and Drew Marmolja, a neighbour and medium who has the gift of seeing dead people. The audience follows the duo – accompanied by a guide/ narrator Eva Saevich, guitar player Guillermo Wald and a singer, Manuela Orbegozzo – going around the block, as in a traditional parade or just a group of friends roaming together the streets.

The two women converse as we walk, telling anecdotes of neighbourhood life, including some strange stories related to peculiar or creepy deaths. The characters are truly endearing; thanks to their comments and narration, locations take on new life. The front of a building that used to be school, a stationery shop or a dry-cleaning shop becomes transformed into suggestive ‘sets’ where hidden memories are ready to be discovered. The group, the performers, narrators and the audience in turn become a cloud of fiction that floats on the street, alien to the rough reality around them.

As for the pieces held indoors, at spaces that belong to the locals, the stand-out was Lo único que quiero es bailar, directed by Josefina Gorostiza and presented at Marcelo Zappoli’s photographic studio. In this work, a group of women – Bárbara Mónica Benítez, Gloria Cáceres, Carla Codino, Marisa Colina, Antonella Ipekchian, María del Carmen Moyano, Vicenta Varela and Brenda Wainstein (who also belong to the neighbourhood) – are brought together by dance and music (Vero Gerez is fantastic while singing and playing different instruments).

Universality of movement brings them together but at the same time it also is a means of illustrating difference. Almost as if creating some sort of urban haikus, short subtle affirmations define each of them and their tastes. And their individual style of movement is indeed so singular that watching the performers is truly moving. Their diversity offers so much richness as they follow the same choreography. The testimonies of Lo único que quiero es bailar are their life mottos and the stories told by their own bodies.

The owner of the studio, Marcelo Zappoli, also participated with his own photographic project, taking pictures of the neighbours in the privacy of their own homes. This intimate album is projected on the wall of a building at the meeting point where the whole adventure of Bombón vecinal begins: the confluence of Sarmiento and Sánchez de Bustamante streets.



* There is one performance of Bombón vecinal still to play this month, next Friday. For further information, visit Teatro Bombón at Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Victoria Eandi

Victoria Eandi


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