The Royal Shakespeare Company returns with a double bill of exciting and resonant new plays in its Spring Mischief Festival at the venue constructed to house the RSC’s more radical and experimental work by contemporary writers. If you visit Stratford Upon Avon once this Spring let this be what you see. #WeAreArrested and Day of the Living are two enthralling, powerful, emotive pieces performed with a deep investment from a highly talented ensemble and creative team. They challenge and inspire us to fight for the freedom to protest and speak out and express solidarity with those in need of that right.
“Beautiful expression of human integrity”
#WeAreArrested is an adaptation of the book of the same name, the true story by Turkish journalist Can Dündar of his persecution from a government whose illegal actions his paper exposed. Dündar’s extraordinary voice, honest and profound yet saturated with ceaseless positivity, shone through Peter Hamilton Dyer’s performance in the central role. Delightful moments of the joy found in imagining the simple pleasures denied him in his solitary prison cell materialised in slickly performed close-up magic. Suddenly the barren cell is filled with colour and hope. The simple set consists of three long white tables on wheels that are rearranged throughout the performance by the cast members to relocate the action, the words cut out of them create shadows on the stage floor, littering it with the letters that prompted persecution. Time skips ahead as the threatening presence of the gunman draws attention to himself by uttering cue words that move the story forward. Quite simply, this is the most beautiful expression of human integrity that theatre has shown me in a long time. It simultaneously opened my eyes to the extent of the unjust imprisonment of journalists who speak out against the actions of their government and demonstrated the importance of showing support and solidarity.
“Shared heart and soul by a brilliant ensemble”
Day of the Living
Day of the Living combines vibrant music and costume with creative movement and mask-work, elements of verbatim theatre and satire to tell the harrowing tale of the 43 students who were disappeared in Ayotzinapa, Mexico in 2014. Lighting changes accompany the shifts between the dark humour of the musical pieces and the verbatim pieces voiced by the actors or translated from audio clips of the interviews with the students who escaped. This is a story belonging to a community and shared heart and soul by a brilliant ensemble of six actors who each play multiple roles, play multiple instruments and add their voices to the music and lyrics created by Darren Clark. The musical numbers are what really hold this production together. In the few moments when the story becomes less clear, the mood created by the music and the stirring emotional power of the cast’s strong vocals carried the audience past any confusion. Day of the Living remains captivating and beautiful even in the depiction of the atrocities experienced by the residents of Iguala and the students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College.
The RSC’s Mischief Festival has created theatre that feels profoundly necessary. These are stories that should be on our nation’s stages. I cannot recommend these two productions strongly enough. Why isn’t theatre always this provoking? Leave the ‘safe and special place’ where you are comfortable and go to The Other Place and let yourself be challenged.
This reviewer attended the opening night performance of the Mischief Festival on 31st May 2018.
The Mischief Festival runs at The Other Place until 23rd June 2018. Tickets can be purchased here.
Image: Ellie Merridale