Père and Mère Ubu in Warsaw. Photograph from Michael Meschke’s production of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, 1964. Set design by Franciszka Themerson and photographs by Beata Bergström.

The logo of Inscription is the spiral: a mark that does not end, turning in on itself and out to meet the world; a circle that never quite returns to its starting point. We take our spiral directly from the portly stomach of Père Ubu, in a 1964 production of Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi, directed by Michael Meschke at the Marionetteatern in Stockholm. The set, designed by the Polish, later British, painter, illustrator, filmmaker and stage designer, Franciszka Themerson (1907 –1988), was extraordinary, its iconography, construction and powerful use of line producing an aesthetic impact similar to Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau in Hannover or Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.

We are very grateful to Michael Meschke, Daniel Bergström (on behalf of the family of Beata Bergström) and Jasia Reichardt, who looks after the Themerson estate, for their permission to reproduce photographs of Michael Meschke’s staging of the play taken by photographer Beata Bergström.

For more information on the extraordinary creative legacy of Michael Meschke’s production of Ubu Roi from 1964 , please refer to Meschke’s own website, the Themerson archive, or the Marionettmuseet at the Scenkonstmuseet.

Franciszka Themerson designed the life-size puppets for the Ubu Roi production at the Marionetteatern in Stockholm in 1964 directed by Michael Meschke and photographed by Beata Bergström. But this wasn’t Franciszka’s first involvement with Alfred Jarry’s Ubu. The production of Kung Ubu happened because Michael Meschke saw the first English translation of Ubu Roi with Franciszka’s drawings, published by Gaberbocchus Press, 1951, and translated by Barbara Wright. The Stockholm production was Franciszka’s third involvement in the introduction of Jarry’s play to an English audience. The second one was a rehearsed reading at the ICA, London in 1952. The production of Ubu Roi travelled the world for 25 years.

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