By Danielle Farrow
The Events, written by David Greig, with Ramin Gray directing and John Browne composing the music which scores a live choir’s interaction with the staged events, is a stimulating piece that provokes and evokes emotional and intellectual responses.
‘Events’ is the generic term used here, for what word can really encompass effect of one person turning on society, perpetrating ‘a mass shooting event’? Based on such shootings, with research that included interviews in Oslo, this look at trying to understand what is unintelligible follows the efforts of a priest to gain insight into why a young man chose to massacre members of her multi-cultural choir. Rudi Dharmalingam plays the boy, along with numerous other roles, while Neve McIntosh plays the priest Claire, and Repetiteur Emily Leather leads the choir chorus, which also supplies a few of the voices of the play.
The theatrical convention that allows one performer to play many roles is made plain by announcements such as ‘journalist’, ‘father’, ‘politician’, etc, as the boy becomes all these roles and more. There are times when a change of character is not signified, however, and while being challenged to think is no bad thing in the theatre, the occasional moment of figuring out when the boy has become Claire’s partner, Katrina, can interfere with focus on the words being spoken. And the words being spoken are of tantamount importance in The Events, as Greig, with his pithy phrases and dissecting ideas, explores dreams, guilt, if-onlys, politics, revenge, psychology and ‘evil’.
It is through words that Claire’s obsessive journey unfolds: her identity as a victim, the repercussions that take her beyond normal society herself and change her behaviour, making it resonate with elements of the boy’s journey, of which we also gain glimpses. McIntosh and Dharmalingam present concentrated performances, swiftly shifting through the pieces of lives that create this jigsaw, while the choir punctuates moments and occasionally shifts the emotional colour of the word-images.
Overall, this production does not have the usual slick presentation of previous Greig plays, where every element comes together in an intricately woven tapestry of sounds and sights. This may reflect the jagged, intangible subject matter, but there is some sense of elements not quite meshing. Even the use of music at all, while facilitated by Claire being a choir master, does not feel integral to the telling of this particular tale. It is in the thoughts of this piece that the power lies.
The Events explores mesmerising territory with some insight, enough complex ambiguity to offer no simple explanations and intriguing parallels between perpetrator and victim. As a piece of performance, there is a lack of ensemble feel, with the spoken text and the musical – for all the work one can see has gone into this – not quite interweaving fully. However, as an exploration of that which remains outwith the grasp of so many people’s understanding, The Events is fascinating.