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MORI EL MERMA

MORI EL MERMA by Joan Baixas and Joan Miró, 1978.

"Mori el Merma" is a chapter, the most important, in the long life of the character called Merma. "The Merma is a theatrical character, a great mask that Joan Miró and the Teatre de La Claca made together. Inspired by "Ubu roi" by Alfred Jarry, it is a grotesque and ridiculous mockery of the abuse and perversion of power".

"Mori el Merma" was a theatrical show with an Italian stage.

From the premiere in 1978 until today, there have been other chapters in the life of this character, in interventions on and off the stage: "Inauguration of the RER train" (Paris 1979), "Matx de Mermes" (Barcelona 1990), “Merma rides again” (New York 1981), “Merma-no-mor-mai” (London 2006), “Al foc el Merma!!!” (Palma de Mallorca 2008), "The Widow's Return" (Alicante 2015). In addition to these adventures that belong to his artistic life, the character and his troop have also caused or suffered other extra-artistic incidents such as the attack by a Chilean fascist group in Adelaide (Australia), the ban of a scene in Taiwan, a complaint for public scandal in Parma (Italy), a trial for the use of harmful substances in Melbourne and other similar occurrences.

The company that created and represented "Mori el Merma" during the first period from 1975 to 1979 was made up of: Teresa Calafell, Gloria Rognoni, Andreu Rabal, Piti Español, Jaume Sorribas, Xata Estrada, Jordi Jané, Quel Doblas, Quico Bofill , Antonia Pintat, Pep Parés, Dominique de Caqueray, Abdó Terrades and the collaborations of Rafael Subirachs in the invention of the voices of the characters and sound instruments on stage, of Josep Mª Baixas in the design of the scenography, d Oriol Regás in production, Pepo Sol and Paulette Kodabandeh in international distribution and Cees Mulderij in film production. The company was directed by Joan Baixas.


 

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Photographs by Francesc Català Roca

THE SCRIPT

The script was developed collectively by the actors during an extensive process of improvisations and tests. Throughout the process it was never written and remained open to changes, amendments and improvisations, not only during rehearsals but also during the performances, adapting to the different places where it was performed, to the inventions of the actors and to new ideas that were appearing in contact with the public.

The show that emerged from this long and complex collaboration did not have a linear narrative development. For the team that invented it, they were discontinuous scenes of the last day of the Merma, the end point of a life of despotic power and violence that ended in a ridiculous death. The dramatic composition developed with a frenetic and syncopated rhythm, with moments of collective hysteria and others of absolute calm, with scenes of radiant light and others in darkness.

 

THE STAGE LANGUAGE

From the beginning of the work, the company set out to create a specific and unprecedented scenic language that would bring to life the characters that populate the universe of the painter Joan Miró. It was achieved thanks to a long and complex process, aggravated by the inherent difficulties of performing with large dolls that left very little visibility and that had a considerable weight, which required a very intense physical effort from the actors.

The process began in night sessions in front of Miró's paintings at his Barcelona Foundation, continued with the observation of animal movements, rhythms and attitudes in the zoo, also through the viewing of films and documentaries about religious, military and sports ceremonies and finally, with direct contact with the public. For the composition of the general atmosphere of the show, the company was inspired by Miró's illustrations in the book "Ubu Roi" from 1966.

SCENEGRAPHY

The show required a stage space that differed from the horizontal plane of the Italian theater convention and that came as close as possible to the vertical plane of the painting. To achieve this, a structure of metal tubes like those used in building construction scaffolding was built, with stairs, platforms, ramps, walkways and masts. All the elements were painted in a greenish gray color looking for a neutrality that highlighted the colors of the characters.

This structure facilitated the circulation of the large characters on several levels above the ground and at the same time allowed aerial and acrobatic exercises for the smaller characters. Important elements of the scenography were two large canvases that, in principle, were intended to be made of boxing ring canvas but ended up being made of thick cotton fabric. One had a spiral painted on it and the other was full of smudges and scribbles.
 

The scenography had a central space that we called the Cave through which the Merma entered and exited.

 

THE SOUND

At various points of the structure there were some invented instruments that served to make sound effects, creating various atmospheres: mobiles of bamboo and other woods, metal plates, simple percussions, rattles, horns and a four-note wind organ made by José Ma Arrizabalaga that operated with a vacuum cleaner engine and produced a long and solemn howl, manipulating its openings. Another sound device was a set of football horns that were driven by an air compressor.

The rest of the sounds were created vocally by the actors with all possible ranges of laughs, pops, squeaks, moans, barks and other craziness. The set of sounds created a Dadaist and dreamlike atmosphere. The actors who embodied the big characters (the Woman, the Merma and three ministers) developed their own language of unintelligible sentences from the deformation of words taken from speeches, prayers and orders, in a stylization exercise similar to which Miró had used visually to compose the series of paintings "Dutch Interior I, II and III" of 1928. The Masks, smaller characters, had a completely different range of sounds, with clear, human voices and in choral composition.

 

UTILITY

In addition to the characters, numerous pieces of strange paraphernalia such as crosses, banners, flags, sceptres, laurel wreaths and others were made.

 

CHARACTERS

The selection and design of the characters was the work of Joan Baixas based on Joan Miró's decision not to make new drawings but to use his previous works "Ubu aux Balears" from 1971 and "L'enfance d'Ubu" from 1975. The manufacture of the dolls was directed by Teresa Calafell and all the members of the company participated.

 

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