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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 on stage in the Italian style.

From its premiere in 1978 until now there have been many other chapters in the life of this character, in interventions inside and outside the scenes: "Inauguration of the RER train" (Paris 1979), "Arc de Triomf" (Paris 1979), "Passeig per la Barceloneta" (1979 Barcelona), "Matx de Mermes" (Barcelona 1990), "Merma rides again" (New York 1981), "Merma-no-mor-mai" (London 2006), "Al foc el Shit!!!" (Palma de Mallorca 2008), "The Return of the Widow" (Alicante 2015). In addition to these adventures that belong to his artistic life, the character and his troupe have also caused or suffered other extra-artistic incidents such as the attack of a Chilean fascist group in Adelaide (Australia), the banning of a scene in Taiwan, a complaint for public scandal in Parma (Italy), a trial for the use of harmful substances in Melbourne (Australia) and other similar mishaps.

The company that created and represented "Mori el Merma" during the first period from 1975 to 1979, was formed by: Teresa Calafell, Gloria Rognoni, Andreu Rabal, Piti Espanyol, 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; by Josep Mª Baixas in the design of the scenography; by Oriol Regás in the production; by Pepo Sol and Paulette Kodabandeh in international distribution and by Cees Mulderij in film production. The company was directed by Joan Baixas.



Photographs ofFrancesc Català Roca


The script was elaborated collectively by the actors through an extensive work 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 performances, adapting to the different places where it was performed, to the inventions of the actors and new ideas that they were emerging in contact with the public.

The show that resulted from this long and complex elaboration 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 frantic and syncopated rhythm, with moments of collective hysteria and others of absolute calm, with scenes of radiant light and others in darkness.


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

The process began in night sessions in front of Miró's paintings at his Foundation in Barcelona, continued with the observation of animal movements, rhythms and attitudes in the zoo, also going through the viewing of films and documentaries on 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.



The show required a scenic space that would differ from the horizontal plane of the convention of the Italian theater and that would come 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 would highlight the colors of the characters.

This structure facilitated the circulation of the large characters at 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 with boxing ring canvas but ended up being made with thick cotton fabric. One had a spiral painted on it and the other was full of stains and doodles.

The scenography had a central space that we called the Cave (Burrow) where the Merma entered and exited.



At various points in the structure there were some invented instruments that served to create sound effects, creating various atmospheres: bamboo and other wooden mobiles, metal plates, simple percussions, rattles, horns and a four-note wind organ made by José Ma Arrizabalaga that worked 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 the possible ranges of laughter, explosions, squeaks, moans, barks and other madness. The set of sounds created a Dadaist and dreamlike atmosphere.
The actors who embodied the great characters (La Dona, El Merma and three ministers) developed their own language of unintelligible sentences from the deformation of words extracted from speeches, prayers and orders, in an exercise of stylization similar to what Miró had used visually to compose the series of paintings "Interior holandés I, II i III" from 1928. The Masks, smaller characters, had a range of completely different sounds, with clear, human voices and in choral composition.



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



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 in it.

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