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The Events – Theatre Royal Plymouth

Writer: David Grieg

Music: John Browne

Director: Ramin Gray

Reviewer: Joseph Leigh


ATC / The Events, 2013The Events takes a fast paced, lyrical approach to the contentious topic of mass murder and its impact on the lives of those left behind. The resulting production is not as depressing as this may sound, but rather a broad reaching analysis of the range of emotions and thoughts experienced by those who survive large scale atrocities and the damage that the search for answers where none may exist can cause.

A fusion of spoken text, music and song, The Events is very much a multi-sensory experience that succeeds in drawing the audience into the horror of the events that unfold and the minds of those involved. By setting aside a typical chronological narrative, David Grieg has created a production that is issue focussed and driven by the development of themes rather than characters. This can create an initial confusion, however this is short lived and once the piece finds its feet it is quite engaging, with some heartfelt and thought provoking moments.

Neve McIntosh’s performance as Claire very much steals the show, as the pivotal character whose strength and faith are tested by the events that she survives apparently by chance. McIntosh displays both strength and vulnerability with a skilled subtlety, bringing the audience to care for Claire while also challenging or even being disgusted by her actions.

Rudi Dharmalingam plays The Boy, essentially a multitude of characters that have significant input into the events that take place. Dharmalingam has clear delivery and displays good control of his physicality, making him highly watchable. There is only slight variation between the characters, which is confusing. It may well be that Dharmalingam’s portrayal is intended to demonstrate that, at a core level, we are all human and so are all capable of these atrocious acts. However, there is just too much variety for this to seam a plausible approach. Unfortunately, if this is not the intended effect, then Dharmalingam’s range of characterisation is somewhat limited. This does detract slightly from the overall performance, however by either reigning in the individual characters or enhancing them (which ever most fits the vision of the piece) this will be easily resolved.

The Pianist Emily Leather is flawless throughout. Also acting as choir master and occasional character, Leather succeeds in maintaining the momentum of the production. Her playing of the piano is without fault, and Leather’s performance makes the live music a key element of the production.

It is often said, “never work with children or animals”. The cast of The Events may well wish to add to that list “amateur choirs”. With a different choir performing a pivotal rôle in the performance each night, McIntosh, Dharmalingam, and Leather must adapt and react to an additional twenty or so performers in each show. As a result, no two performances will be ever completely the same and there is the risk of a rogue performer having a negative impact on the overall piece. There are however considerable rewards for this gamble, and the use of a genuine community choir to play a community choir adds to the human element that is central to the piece, making the characters feel more real. As the relationships between the choir members are genuine, so their interaction with the characters are leant a sense of the real that is highly compelling.

The reality of the choir and its members can also create a distraction from the production. With dialogue at times being delivered in a stilted manner, scripts being rustled during moments of suspense filled quiet, and thinly disguised reactions showing the choir members’ thoughts on what is taking place, this unfortunately can grate against the professional performances. It is worthy of note that while the choirs are amateur, it is to be hoped that when taking part in a professional production they will demonstrate an appropriate level of behaviour and courtesy to their professional colleagues. Scornful eye rolling and mouthing “we’re not” when they are thanked at the end of the production and accidentally referred to by the wrong name does not meet this level of conduct, as an error clearly made innocently and while expressing genuine thanks does not warrant a public reaction in front of a paying audience.

Overall, this is an enjoyable production that brings some interesting concepts to the table. Well worth a watch.

Runs until Saturday 30th November.


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