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 named Merma. "El Merma is a theatrical personage, a great mask that we made together Joan Miró and Teatre de La Claca. Inspired by "Ubu roi" by Alfred Jarry, it is a grotesque and ridiculous mockery of abuse and perversion of power”.
Mori el Merma was a theatrical spectacle in Italian stage.
Since its OPENING in 1978 to date, there have been many other chapters in the life of this character, in interventions on and off the stage: "RER Inauguration" (Paris 1979), "Arc de Triomf" (Paris 1979), "Merma rides again" (New York 1981), "Merma-no-mor-mai" (London 2006), "Al foc El Merma!!!" (Palma de Mallorca 2008), "The return of the Widow" (Alacant 2015). In addition to these adventures that belong to his artistic life, the character and his troupe have also provoked or suffered other extra-artistic incidents such as the attack of a Chilean fascist group in Adelaide (Australia), the ban on a scene in Taiwan, a Complaint by public scandal in Parma (Italy), a trial for 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 of sound instruments on stage; of Josep Mª Baixas in the design of the scenery; of Oriol Regás in production; of Pepo Sol and Paulette Kodabandeh in the international distribution and of Cees Mulderij in the film production. The company was led by Joan Baixas.
The script was elaborated collectively by the actors through an extensive work of improvisations and tests. Throughout the process it was never written and kept open to changes, amendments and improvisations, not only during rehearsals but also during performances, adapting to the different places where they were represented, to the inventions of the actors and to new ideas that 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 were discontinuous scenes of the last day of the Merma, the final point of a life of despotic power and violence that ended in a ridiculous death. The dramatic composition developed in a frenetic and syncopated rhythm, with moments of collective hysteria and others of absolute calm, scenes of radiant light and others in darkness.
THE SCENIC LANGUAGE
From the beginning of the work, the company proposed the creation of a specific and unprecedented stage 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 of interpretation with large dolls that left very little visibility and had a considerable weight, which required the actors a very intense physical effort.
The process began at night sessions in front of Miró's paintings at his Barcelona Foundation. He continued to observe movements, rhythms and animal attitudes in the zoo, and also to watch films and documentaries on religious, military and sport ceremonies. Finally, with direct contact with the public. For the composition of the general atmosphere of the show, the company was inspired by the illustrations of Miró in the book "Ubu Roi" of 1966.
The spectacle demanded a stage space that differed from the horizontal plane of the convention of the frontal theater and which was as close as possible to the vertical plane of the painting. To achieve this, a structure of metal pipes like those used in building scaffolding, with stairs, platforms, ramps, walkways and mats, was built. All the elements were painted in a greyish gray color looking for a neutrality that made the colors of the characters stand out.
This structure facilitated the movement of large characters at various levels above ground and at the same time allowed aerial and acrobatic exercises of the smaller characters. Important elements of the scenery were two large canvases that, in principle wanted to do with boxing ring canvas but ran by thick cotton fabric. One had a spiral painted and the other was full of stains and scribbles.
The scenery had a central space that we called the Cau (Burrow) where the Merma came and went.
At various points in the structure there were some invented instruments that were used to make sound effects, creating different atmospheres: bamboo mobiles and other woods, metal plates, simple percussions, carracas, horns and a wind organ of four notes made by Jose Ma Arrizabalaga who operated with a vacuum cleaner engine and produced a long and solemn howling, manipulating its overtures. Another sound device was a set of football speakers that were driven by an air compressor.
The rest of the sounds were created vocally by the actors with all the possible ranges of laughs, outbursts, squeaks, groans, barks and other crazy things. The whole of the sounds created a dadaist and dreamlike atmosphere. The actors who incarnated the big characters (Dona, Merma and three ministers) developed a language of unintelligible phrases based on the deformation of words extracted from speeches, prayers and orders, in an exercise of stylization similar to the one Miró had used visually to compose the series of paintings "Dutch Interior I, II and III" of 1928. Masks, smaller characters, had a completely different range of sounds, with clear, human voices and in choral composition.
In addition to the characters, numerous pieces of bizarre props were made such as crosses, banners, flags, scepters, laurel wreaths and others.
The selection and design of the characters was the work of Joan Baixas from the decision of Joan Miró not to make new drawings but to use his previous works "Ubu aux Balears" of 1971 and "L'enfance d'Ubu" of 1975. The manufacture of the dolls was directed by Teresa Calafell and in it participated all the members of the company.
Photograph Francesc Català Roca