“My baby is the size of a mango now,” remarks an amused Rocío Molina. “I have an app that compares the foetus to food.” The iconoclast bailaora (flamenco dancer) confides that she has longed to become a mother and eventually became pregnant through IVF on 28 March 2018. Premiering at the Festival d’Avignon, when the foetus was the size of an avocado, Grito Pelao (bare cry) is an ephemeral show that will die when Molina gives birth. It delves into her pregnant body to reveal intimate fears, doubts and, above all, yearning.
The spectacle – open-air in Barcelona, as at Avignon – begins with Molina on a chair touching her belly, wrapped by the sound of a heartbeat, as if in a womb. Next to her a small pool shines, and upstage a foetal echocardiogram is projected onto the giant rock of the Montjuïc hill behind. From this allegorical scene the show unfolds into a personal journal: it becomes a casual sequence of anecdotes, dialogue, baile (flamenco dance) and live music braided with a flawed and shallow dramaturgy.
Catalan singer Sílvia Pérez Cruz wavers between caring midwife and narrator roles, whilst the petite figure of amateur dancer Lola Cruz, Molina’s mother, brings an adorable fresh air to the stage. The stark contrast between Molina and Pérez Cruz’s energies can be electrifying; Molina’s Iberian dynamism bursts into flaming zapateados; the singer’s plastic Mediterranean voice and languid presence spread like cream. But all too often, they break this spell when they talk or when they engage in unfunny gags.
This feminine collaboration triggers gripping images, yet the absence of the father figure sourly throbs throughout the performance – the singer serenades us with Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘For a fatherless son’, before she and Molina melt and sink to the floor. The bailaora and her mother cuddle, their bodies sculpting an endearing inverted pietà. Long anticipated, Molina finally dips naked into the pool.
In this overly stretched performance, Molina’s tale gets lost in self-absorption, as if her yearning holds her back from moulding individual desire into a universal cry.