As part of the RSC’s Mischief Festival, their spring double bill of brand new plays explore the global questions of truth, freedom and corruption. One of the productions, Day Of The Living tells the 2014 story of the forty-three students who forcefully disappeared.
I spoke to director Amy Draper about tackling this true story through theatre. “It was an event that really shook Mexico and became known about globally because of things like social media,” she said. “It really upset things in Mexico, because although people have been disappearing for a long time, it was so many at once. They were students and they were innocent, so it really became a big news item.”
Before interviewing Amy, I wasn’t aware there was an issue with disappearances in Mexico until I typed it into google. Shocked to find story after story talking about The Disappearance Crisis, I realised then just how important this story is to be told.
“We are making the piece in response to that event, but it grows out and thinks about Mexico in general, things like corruption and very normalised violence,” Amy explained. “It goes to the dark places because it is important to go to the poignant, difficult places in the show but also we hopefully get the tone right in that we also try and honour and pay tribute to the Mexican spirit and the hope and endurance, it is a really colourful, vibrant and warm culture. So there is a lot of juxtaposition.”
In Ayotzinapa, Mexico 43 students disappeared and no one is brought to justice. Amy Draper has created an anarchic piece of theatre that is a musical tribute to life and the Mexican spirit with urgent, global issues at its heart. The company use verbatim from the book I Couldn’t Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us, which includes testimony from students at the school where the disappearance occurred.
“The aim of the show is to really be a springboard into conversation about what is happening in Mexico right now because it is quite frightening.”
After having the first workshop back in 2015, they did another two research and development weeks with the RSC before the full creation. It is a devised piece made with an ensemble cast of six actor musicians. “A lot of the show touches on what is truth and fake news. Masks are used in a lot of traditional dances and celebrations on Mexico so we knew we wanted to use that metaphorical idea of masks, knowing who to trust,” she said. “The premise is that the ensemble in the show are unmasked but when they are playing a character they are masked in some way.”
Amy really emphasised how the audience will resonate with the piece because it is still happening now. “At the end of the show, we say that since the show started one person has gone missing in Mexico, it is that common,” she said. “It is relevant because it is happening in a democracy and elections are coming up, it is relevant because a lot of it is linked to the drugs trade, and so everything really connects.
It feels important that people know about this and how close you could get to this, how easy it is for society to fall into that level of normalised violence and corruption – questioning our own society.”
Amy explained how people always ask her what they can do about Mexico, and she said she doesn’t think she has the answer to that. “Our show doesn’t ask that it just shows everyone what is happening, and how we really are optimistic that hope, community and conversation can win through.”
Day Of The Living is on as part of the Mischief Festival at The Other Place in Stratford Upon Avon until the 23rd of June, tickets and information can be found online here.
Photo credit: Ellie Merridale