Dadaist Kurt Schwitters was one of the most eccentric and influential artists in the 20th century, and the first to make poetry of the fact that a culture reveals itself in what it throws away. Peter Froehlich’s brilliant one-man show is a collage of Schwitters’ Merz poems. An odd collection of works written with throwaway syllables, letters and noises, MERZ features poems with silly titles such as The Complete Sneezing and Cough Scherz — all written without a single intelligible word. Nonsensical though it may seem, MERZ is one of the funniest shows you will ever see, Froehlich’s authority and command of the text makes for a delightfully silly and enjoyable evening!
A “play” in two parts, MERZ first sets Kurt Schwitters’ life and work in its historical context — in the years leading up to the Third Reich. Woven from his shorter performances pieces, anecdotes and autobiographical ramblings, it includes his Sneeze-Poem, Cough-Poem and Stutter-Poem, as well as Schwitters’ tender and eccentric love poem, To Anna Blossom, and his wonderfully anarchic deconstruction of the rise of Nazism, The Causes and Outbreak of the Grand and Glorious Revolution in Revon. The second half does not contain a single intelligible world—it is a performance of the famous but rarely performed Ursonate, a labyrinth of a composition of scored mouth noises.
Peter Froehlich premiered the play at the Edinburgh Festival over 30 years ago. Between 1976 and 1982, it toured theatres, art galleries, new music venues and universities from British Columbia to Newfoundland and from Boston and New York to Atlanta. It received universal rave reviews and wide public attention at the time. After a 20-year hiatus, Froehlich brought the show back to the stage in 2000 in Ottawa, and to Romania for an international festival of “new” dramaturgy. To his delight, he found that, after all that time, audiences still considered it innovative — and that they still laughed a lot!