Find out more about Day of the Living from co-creator, Juliet
DAY OF THE LIVING STARTED OUT AS A PIECE OF DEVISED THEATRE AND YOU HAVE COME ON BOARD AS THE WRITER. HAVE YOU WORKED LIKE THIS BEFORE? HOW DOES THE PROCESS DIFFER FROM OTHER WORK YOU’VE DONE?
This is a completely new experience for me and one I’m looking forward to. As a writer, I am constantly seeking to grow creatively and learn new narrative forms. I will be working closely with Amy Draper and Darren Clark. This piece will be a true melting pot of jointly conjured metaphors, images and story emanating from research and travel. The Actors and their response to our ideas will be integral too. Normally, characterisation and narrative structure are elements I enjoy creating alone. I like the initial challenge of building distinctive worlds from a blank page. But theatre production is profoundly organic and therein lies its strength. Whatever I visualise becomes a shared experience, interpreted by Designers, Actors, Musicians, Sound Engineers and Directors.
Day of the Living will start from a room full of unlimited and challenging ideas and not the solitary page.
THE PLAY IS INFLUENCED BY THE 2014 'FORCED DISAPPEARANCE' OF 43 MALE STUDENTS IN AYOTZINAPA, MEXICO, CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THIS INCIDENT?
For me, no other contemporary incident has managed to wound or upend Mexican society the way this has done. It’s inconceivable that so many students can simply vanish and that the hunt for them could unearth hitherto unknown mass graves and not the missing students. Where are they? And who are the nameless victims inhabiting the mass graves? This unresolved mystery, the amnesia surrounding the bones of the dead and troubling disregard for human life has galvanised a battle for social justice and basic human rights amongst ordinary Mexicans, and rightly so.
HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A JOURNALIST HELPED WITH A SUBJECT LIKE THIS?
Yes. I have written about news led events before, including the Darfur Genocide.
I interviewed many refugees for my play Bilad al Sudan and immersed myself in their stories of survival. It’s impossible to attempt such a subject without talking to those who have experienced it. Such experiences have informed the kind of stories I wish to tell and always underscore the need to honour the lives of others living different political and cultural realities.
THE OTHER PLACE HAS A LONG HISTORY OF CHALLENGING AND RADICAL WORK, MANY WITH CONTEMPORARY THEMES. WHAT PURPOSE DO YOU THINK THEATRE SERVES IN THIS SENSE?
Challenging and radical work encourages us to ask difficult question s about the way we live our lives, what we want from society and each other. How else can we digest the many polarising issues and often unpalatable ones.
Culture is currently wrestling with what feels like an unprecedented political reality, whether it’s the rise of nationalism, the influx of war torn refugees, Brexit, religious extremism or the Presidency of Donald Trump and his impact on a fragile world order. I think theatre provides a unique crucible in which we can have these kind of conversations and debate the things we are too afraid to say.
AS A WRITER OF WORK FOR THE STAGE, HOW INVOLVED WITH THE REHEARSAL PROCESS DO YOU LIKE TO BE? IS THIS PROJECT DIFFERENT?
I like to be involved with the rehearsal process. I like to see the progress of what I’ve helped to create, but writers are not always offered a sustained opportunity. However, I think this project will be different. It’s a devised play and the ideas are likely to keep flowing right up to opening night. We will be flying by the seat of our pants but in a good and creative way.
CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT ANYTHING YOU ARE WORKING ON OR HAVE COMING UP?
I have another RSC commission which I’m really enjoying. It's a political satire about the ‘rebirth of a nation’ during immoral and polarising times. Let’s leave it at that.
FINALLY, WHO OR WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLAYWRIGHT/PLAY/PRODUCTION?
That’s a tough question! I have to say Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson. Set in the 1920s, it’s layered with profound social aspiration versus social injustice, seen through the eyes of talented but divided African-American ‘Blues’ musicians. Another favourite play is One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace. It’s a masterful dissection of plague, class and society in 17th Century Britain. In another life I would love to direct it.
This article originally featured in Issue 9 of Radical Mischief. Read the full issue here.