David Greig's challenging new play The Events is a truly international production - a suitable comment in itself on the subject-matter. First staged in August in Edinburgh, where it garnered several awards, it is now being toured by the Actors Touring Company simultaneously with a German-language version at co-producer Schauspielhaus Wien, before a Spring 2014 tour in Norway by fellow co-producer Brageteatret.
The Norwegian connection is highly appropriate, because the 2011 outrage when Anders Breivik killed 77 people inspired the play. Inevitably there was the usual outcry against making capital out of evil, and equally inevitably watching the play reveals that to be as unnecessary and ill-informed as usual.
The "story" – and there is no linear narrative – concerns Claire, a priest who has narrowly escaped with her life after a shooting outrage, and her attempts to cope with her own trauma and understand the mind-set of the killer, who doesn't hate foreigners, but hates them to be here! There are moments of violence (more often linguistic than physical), but the mood is as often meditative or poetic. An inspired idea is to use a choir (Claire's multi-cultural choir) as part of the action and part of the questioning process.
The presentation of the choir chimes well with the way Ramin Gray's production avoids appearing as an orthodox theatre performance. At the performance I saw, the Dove House Community Choir sang well (original music by John Browne) and were obviously thoroughly rehearsed, but avoided any hint of "acting" – any lines, even if only three words, were read, and the choir took movement (standing, sitting down) from repetiteur Magnus Gilljam. Similarly, Chloe Lamford's designs are just as the book says, "the sort of place in which a choir might rehearse".
Neve McIntosh brings a burning-eyed intensity to Claire; even the scenes of happier times she seems always on the edge. As, according to the programme, "The Boy", Rudi Dharmalingam is remarkable. He is the killer, but also a whole sweep of characters, from Claire's partner Katrina to an extremist party leader who condemns the violence (of course!). His strength lies in not differentiating them too much: the word is key, not the character, as he and McIntosh build a fabric of attitudes and opinions that never offers easy solutions.
Interestingly enough, McIntosh, Dharmalingam, Gray and Browne are among eleven people who helped Greig "make the text of this play". The Events seems subject to organic growth, with many begetters; the touring version is already much changed from the Edinburgh original.
- Ron Simpson