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Recent Argentine Vanguard Theatre: Gambaro's Información para extranjeros


Griselda Gámbaro is a well-known Latin American playwright whose two principal works, Los siameses (1967) and El campo (1967) have been presented not only in her native Argentina but also abroad. Both these plays contain elements of the theatre of the absurd: the use ofnon-rhetorical language, with a special focus on sensorial orientation through grotesque gestures and movements. Other characteristics cited by critics include the use of the Artaudian concept of psychological cruelty and physical violence, fragmented dramatic structures, depersonalization and exaggeration of the characters. The sum of these elements creates for the audience a feeling of metaphysical anguishwhich is derived from the absurdity inherent in the condition of modern man. 1 One of Gambaro's recent yet unpublished plays, Información para extranjeros, presents an extension, amplification and at the same time a concentration of the author's ideas found in her previous plays. Información para extranjeros goes beyond the conventions established by the theatre of the absurd to includecharacteristics of vanguard theatre in the United States, such as Julian Beck's Living Theatre and Richard Schechner's Environment Theatre. 2 Theories concerning the use of space, the relationship between actor and spectator, and nudity underlie not only Beck's and Schechner's innovative theatre, but also Gambaro's play. Fundamental to the dynamism of Gambaro's play is its use of space. Although thepossibilities are numerous, principally the audience and the actors on or ofi the stage combine to form living space, "literally spheres of spaces, spaces within the spaces, spaces which contain or envelop, or relate, or touch all the areas where the audience is and/or the performers perform." 3 The actors and the audience intermingle and, as in the case of Paradise Now and Gambaro's play, the actorsbecome guides; hence, the spectator enters into a special relationship with the participants of the play—both actors and the rest of the audience—and experiences two opposing forces, as he is pulled from active participation to critical distancing.



Información para extranjeros, structured around simultaneous action, breaks down the barriers between stage andaudience, which helps to eliminate differences between actor and spectator. Audience participation, if only passive as in the case of Gambaro's play, converts the play into social statement rather than an artistic manifestation which in turn creates an illusion of reality. It is similar to a "happening" where fragmented action and discontinuous time create a collage of seemingly unrelated events.Nudity—not eroticism—communicates society's vulnerability and impenetrability. Gámbaro aims so to touch the audience that the play will not be forgotten.4 This study will assess, therefore, the extent to which the thematic and technical aspects of Información para extranjeros not only communicate tones of absurdity, terror and helplessness, but also see human violence in a new perspective. Thesub-title to Gambaro's work is "Chronicle in 21 scenes." The play takes place preferably in a converted house, or a theatre that offers the possibility of being converted into numerous rooms connected by passageways. A different scene or several scenes are enacted in each of the rooms. The audience, divided into small groups led by a narrator-guide, participates in the development of the play.Escorted by their guide, each group moves about from room to room, observing the 21 scenes. Moreover, the artful manipulation of light and dark create desired effects of special distortion, making it difficult to recognize other groups of spectators who are en route to other rooms. The proximity of the actors and the audience almost literally assaults the spectators' sensitivities, preparing them for...
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