*** Harder-hitting and electrifyingly inventive, Day of the Living is a kind of musical fiesta created by the composer-lyricist Darren Clark, the director Amy Draper and the writer Juliet Gilkes Romero. Under twinkling fairy lights and garlands it mixes Mexican mythology and tradition with a tragic family drama and verbatim testimony from students who survived the atrocity.
The results are nightmarishly vivid: there are uncanny, wide-eyed masks and grinning, Day of the Dead skulls; a severed head tumbles out of a piñata. The songs are either heartbreaking laments or jaunty ditties whose sunniness is a queasy counterpoint to violent, pitch-black lyrics. It’s a wild party in hell, as highly coloured as a cartoon, but deeply serious in intent, radiating anger, defiance and, ultimately, hope. Fiercely effective. (The Times)
There’s no time to relax as Day of the Living threatens to blow minds and break hearts with its gob-smacking blend of Mexican folklore, Day of the Dead imagery, song and dance used to tell the unbearably tragic story… Day of the Living is a devised piece put together by writer Juliet Gilkes Romero, composer and lyricist Darren Clark and director Amy Draper with a crazily talented cast that includes Mexican actors Alvaro Flores and Jimena Larraguivel, alongside Jamie Cameron, Tania Mathurin, Eilon Morris and Anne-Marie Piazza.
It’s a musical, and it kicks off in fiesta spirit, with the audience invited to holler, whoop and take part…The music is in turns beguiling, funny and deeply poignant: opener A Short History of Mexico is a hilarious clever romp, while Song of the Turtles — sang beautifully by Piazza — is possibly the most haunting song my ears have ever heard.
Day of the Living is like a magical collage, it is a wonderful jumble of colours, sounds and emotions. The songs are augmented by a soundscape full of the voices of the students and crackly newsflashes, while a masked drama forms the emotional heart of the story… and it is a truly extraordinary way of charting the ongoing suffering of the families of the disappeared. (Stratford Herald)
There is real passion behind the group of actor-musicians who tell this story, and their words really do resonate. Although there are some moments of obscurity, the narrative is heart-wrenchingly clear. It is a really interesting piece of theatre that highlights a real issue in a theatrically engaging way.
Through a combination of vibrant music and bright colour, the juxtaposition between the spirit of Mexico and the fear and pain their people feel is portrayed through this piece written by Juliet Gilkes Romeo… The movement and characterisation of the actors wearing masks is remarkable, as it heightens the emotion of their struggle. With the mother and grandfather clinging onto his memories, lost in the unknowing. Stinging with grief, their scenes are beautifully crafted to show what these Mexican families are having to deal with.
Both #WeAreArrested and Day Of The Living are desperately essential, hard-hitting stories told in an informative and gripping way. (SincerelyAmy.com)
***** 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.
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. (the730review.co.uk)
In a whirlwind of song, Mexican folklore, wrestling matches and masks, a company of actor-musicians recounts the unsolved case of the “forced disappearance” of 43 Mexican students in 2014. Its flurry of colour, spirit and celebratory verve at first belies, but gradually reveals, the obscenities of the cartel-related crimes it describes. And coming on the very day that the Mexican government announces its reopening of the investigation into the case, the cast’s planting of 43 pinwheels, spinning fast in the wind, becomes a beacon of hope and a testament to endurance against injustice. (The Stage)
Day of the Living… is more like a savage, satirical, musical review of the entire history of Mexico, a “scrapyard of the dead”. There are wrestlers and a bull-fight, mime, actors in masks with the action described in voice-overs. It’s as if the chaos is the country. Dragging in everyone from ancient gods to narco kings, Toltecs, conquistadors, priests and politicians between, the central story is easily lost in a torrent of ideas and images.
But when the smoke clears, there are visions of horror—a jolly song about a severed head with fingers in its mouth, or a description of a tortured student too graphic to repeat.Tania Mathurin and Alvaro Flores lead the ensemble numbers with style and vigour. So resilience is evident here too, but I left the theatre with a profound sense of unease about events in countries at the book-ends of Western democracy. (British Theatre Guide)
It fights via fiesta… using Mexican music and carnival spirit to tell the sombre story of 43 students ‘disappeared’ by a pack of unmarked, government gunmen….Detached voices recount the students’ experiences of the affray – the issue being we can only guess what they went through – while a masked dumbshow follows a family refusing to give up on a disappeared son….Clark’s songs have spirit – one trills about severed heads in the street, “not normal, but not not normal” (WhatsOnStage)
The six-person ensemble (Jamie Cameron, Alvaro Flores, Jimena Larraguivel, Eilon Morris, Anne-Marie Piazza and Tania Mathurin) do their best…shifting uneasily between black humour, desperate sorrow and righteous anger. It takes enormous skill to find comedy within such a tragedy….The music, dancing, mime, masks and audience participation offer plenty of energy. (Guardian)
Day of the Living blends testimony, mythology, overwrought mask-work and pointed musical performance from its company of six in a style which the publicity material calls “anarchic” but might equally be called a bit of a mess. (Financial Times)