Writer: David Greig
Director: Ramin Gray
Reviewer: Anna Ambelez
How do communities and individuals heal after traumatic violence? This production deals with that scenario and one individual in particular; a parish priest called Claire (Amanda Drew). While taking the choir in the village hall, an armed young man (Clifford Samuel) enters and fires. He is discriminating towards his victims, which adds to the perplexity and Claire (better known as Dr May Wright in EastEnders) endeavors to find the explanation and tries to understand why. It is a subject relevant to current affairs as Hillsborough inquiry is currently in the news, although this tragedy is politically based. The audience is taken on a journey through various exchanges between Claire and people in the attacker’s life; his father, a school contemporary, her partner Katrina and her psychiatrist, all of which are played by Clifford Samuel.
All the action takes place on a bare stage, with some stacking chairs, a small table and the rear stepped seating where the choir are positioned. While not visually stimulating, it makes for an easy and practical set for touring. The Events played to full houses at The Traverse in last year’s Edinburgh Festival, where it gained a Scotsman’s Fringe First and is now embarking on a national and international tour. Each night a local choir take part in the production, and at the time of reviewing it was Gosforth Community Choir with Joe Bunker on piano and original music by John Browne. Singing can be very emotive; moving action to new heights, but this choir (in the main) seem to lack that power. They represent the village choir in the play and likewise would not be professional; however combining professional and non-professional players in a production often presents a dichotomy.
Greig at the age of 45 has over 50 plays, adaptations, translations and screenplays to his name since graduating in 1990; working on everything from Sophocles to children’s plays. His work often searches for connections between different characters, especially when there are great gulfs between them, either socially, politically or culturally. This is such an example; there are cultural, social and personal differences between the ‘boy’ and his victims. While Greig visited Norway after the Utoya Anders Breivik’s shooting, he says The Events is not based on those events but there are resemblances. There exists an insatiable desire to understand why bad things happen, and this desire leads Claire to the brink of her sanity testing her faith politics and reason.
Theatre is where one goes to ‘see’ a performance, but The Events may possibly be as effective on radio as very little is seen, but a lot is heard. It may have been the director’s (Ramin Gray) aim to have little more than two actors independently moving around the stage going through various duologues, accentuating their respective isolation, but it makes it seem more like a documentary than a play. There is a moment of real relationship between Claire and her partner with actual emotional physical contact, but two minutes in eighty are not enough. “Events test us” says the boy; and The Events tests the audience. It is often difficult to separate reality from Claire’s thoughts to know who Clifford is, even though the many characters he portrays are played brilliantly. Many emotions are covered, grief, anger, revenge and hatred but underplayed in their portrayal. The general pace is even and equable, but lacks variety of delivery. It is a very brave subject to tackle and should be applauded. It is difficult to portray without being over dramatic and sensational, but simplicity is not what one has come to expect of Greig. Overall it lacks the ardour, emotion and turmoil it is about, but it will be interesting to see if it develops during its tour.
Runs until: 17th April