URUBUS, by and with Aloísio Avaz, Anete Colacioppo, Daniel Brunet, Vinicius Giusti & MXM (Mirella Brandi X Muep Etmo), premiered at Acker Stadt Palast from 19 – 21 January 2024. The performance was a stage adaptation of the book with the same title by Carla Bessa, a Brazilian writer based in Berlin.
“And you know what, I can’t stand apples! And she couldn’t stand the smell of her husband either, Brasil Nativo care set of green apple deodorant, perfume and soap.”
Anete Colacioppo sits on a chair at centre stage with a cutting board on her lap and cuts an apple. She speaks in Portuguese accompanied by live improvisation on the piano by Muep Etmo and a soundscape of field recordings and electronic compositions. Soon, a pre-recorded recitation in German of the short story “Volcanoes”, from the book on which URUBUS is based, comes on and tells the tale of Aparecida, who had been in an unhappy marriage for 40 years. Her recently deceased husband used to offer her peeled and sliced apple pieces after every lunch, a ritual she had despised but followed.
There are apples everywhere on stage. Colacioppo drops them into a metal bowl, holds them, hands them to the audience, throws them onto the floor, eats one… As I watch her interact with the apples, I wonder: What would it be like to allow an object to hold such dense feelings and memories? Especially when it is a very common object that one can easily encounter anywhere?
“She choked on the piece of apple and on the memories of the old man and her entire non-life, a singular bad choice […] She wanted to forget, but too much had accumulated.”
This part ends with Colacioppo sitting back down on the chair and cutting an apple again and again into smaller pieces. It incites a fascination in me about how strange and complex humans can be. How much a body can hold without expressing. In what odd and inexplicable ways these secrets can rise to the surface.
Towards the end of the performance, the scene of Colacioppo cutting apples reoccurs. This time, however, she minces them so finely that it is no longer possible to tell what they are. Just a pile of white flesh that could easily be seen as something else. Ginger, garlic, parsnip…? Could this be comparable to how we sometimes deal with our emotions? Mincing up our loneliness, sadness, anger, shame so finely and then sprinkling them into a salad of feelings? Are we able to recognise them anymore? When do they start to rot and stink? What makes us so hungry that we finally shovel the salad into our mouths to taste everything?
“They laugh a lot down there, sing, dance, laugh and laugh, but our vulture eyes do not miss the rot under the delicate shell, they stink to the sky, the devastation, despair, loneliness, hopelessness…”
In a scene near the end, Daniel Brunet roams the stage and recites the last story in the book, “Vultures II”, in a mixture of English and German. He embodies vultures—in Brazilian Portuguese, urubus—observing humans from above.
The general atmosphere of the piece is dark and angsty. The entire performance is accompanied by a piano improvisation in a minor key. The soundscape (Vinicius Giusti & Rees Archibald) contains screechy noises, flies buzzing, dogs barking, screams of different creatures… Lights (Mirella Brandi) are dim and foggy with frequent strobes that make it uncomfortable to look directly at the stage. Steering my eyes away from the strobing light, hoping it will stop, I contemplate the knots of my buried emotions that I often look away from, not bearing the unpleasantness of their sensations.
The piece ends with the video projection of vultures eating a carcass of an animal. We see the animal’s bare ribcage, as the birds peck on.
 This and subsequent quotes in the text are from the German edition of Urubus, tr. Lea Hübner, Berlin: Transit Verlag, 2021. They have been translated into English by Inky Lee.