Una Giornata Particolare – Life, Death and the Rumba

Clara Segura and Pablo Derqui in Una Giornata Particolare directed by Oriol Broggi. Photo: David Ruano

The Italian director Ettore Scola died last month. Probably the most internationally famous of his films was Una Giornata Particolare (A Special Day), a domestic love story starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, set on the occasion of Adolf Hitler’s visit to Benito Mussolini’s Rome in 1938. The film was released in 1977, and won a Golden Globe and was nominated for two Oscars.

In Catalan
Recreating the costumes, the props, the lighting, the mood, the music, even the style of acting of its protagonists, this Catalan theatre production, directed by Oriol Broggi, (just 6-years-old when the movie originally came out), treated this wee gem of cinematic history as you might a family heirloom, with the awe and respect of something so precious that you’re scared to bring it to light … yet feel compelled to do so. Broggi and his company at LaPerla29 must’ve fought tooth-and-nail for this production to be made and managed to do so in 2014, in Scola’s final years of life. Originally shown in the poetic setting* of the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya in Barcelona, the play proved so successful with audiences that it is still touring Catalonia, hopping from one little local theatre to the next and having to adapt to the restricted spacial circumstances of each.

Reality or Fiction
In fuzzy frames of reality and fiction, the first ten minutes of the play are, indeed, the film, sort of: the Italian propaganda ‘news’ footage used in the early scenes are projected all wobbly onto the back of the stage. A cinematic novelty at the time, the camera wanders in through the window of an apartment block and pursues the frustrated and rather bubble-headed housewife, Antonietta (Loren), from room to room: droopy eyes, messy hair and those startling cheekbones, she sips coffee from a teaspoon as she tips one kid after the other from their beds. It is only when the family are all shoved out to the parade that she finally sits alone at the kitchen table and bemoans her chores with the parrot. Then the film fades and we are directed below to the stage.

Still Special
Split in two with the porter, a sinister gossip (played by Rosa Gàmiz), visible throughout: on the left, actress Clara Segura picks up in Catalan where Loren left off. On the right, her enigmatic neighbour Gabriele (Pablo Derqui) gazes at his desk – the empathetic portrait of a man who can’t decide whether to kill himself or to learn the rumba. Una Giornata Particolare is an intelligent, profound and unpatronising remake of the film. While the precision of it is a bit odd, leaving much to the staging which relies very much on context, like the original film it ekes the beauty out of the banal, making so much more meaning out of life in the messing-about between the laundry sheets on the roof, than in the flag-waving and shouting going on in the background.

Una Giornata Particolare – dir. Oriol Broggi
The play is in Catalan
Photo: © David Ruano
THANK YOU LaPerla29 / Teatre Zorrilla – Badalona, and *theatre critic Jordi Bordes for his comments!
Tour dates (check individual theatres for more info):
Igualada. 7 de febrer; Mataró. 13 de febrer; El Prat de Llobregat. 14 de febrer; Sabadell. 20 de febrer; Figueres. 21 de febrer; Manresa. Teatre Kursaal. 27 i 28 de febrer.