WhatsOnStage Logo

The Events

David Greig's new play, a Fringe First winner at Edinburgh this year, transfers to the Young Vic

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Neve McIntosh and Rudi Dharmalingam in The Events (pictured during the Edinburgh run)

An unwritten rule of criticism is that you shouldn't write about your fellow audience members, but it was impossible to ignore an unruly bunch of schoolchildren on the front row who did their best to ruin last night's performance of this powerful new drama from David Greig.

Indeed, it says something for the impact of the play that even an unwelcome soundtrack of adolescent tittering (I was sitting right behind them) wasn't enough to spoil it, and I walked away deeply shaken.

The 'events' of the title refer to the (fictional) cold-blooded shooting of a community choir, targeted by a disenfranchised gunman because he views them as an exemplar of the evils of multiculturalism.

Claire, a gay vicar who runs the choir, searches in vain for an explanation for the atrocity, which has echoes of the Anders Breivik massacre in Norway. Having narrowly avoided the assassin's bullet herself, she speaks to a range of affiliated players in the tragedy - a journalist, a therapist, the perpetrator's father, and the perpetrator himself - in an attempt to find a kind of closure.

But Greig, returning to more familiar territory after his recent work on the blockbuster Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, powerfully makes the argument that there can be none, as no real explanation exists. The only controllable factor is how to respond, he suggests, and Claire runs the gamut from visceral rage to near-sympathy.

It's a harrowing hour and 20 minutes, and though certain moments in Ramin Gray's production strain a little too hard for impact - the use of a coffee spill as a blood stain being one - the performances of Neve McIntosh as Claire and Rudi Dharmalingam as everyone else are admirably controlled and, finally, devastating.

Gray's casting of Dharmalingam, a British Asian, is especially inspired: Not only does he play the racist killer but also a Nick Griffin-esque 'politician', whose organisation has been badly damaged by its association with the killing (it listed the choir on its website as an example of "state-funded propaganda for multiculturalism").

A different amateur choir performs each night alongside the actors, lending the production an all-too real sound and atmosphere that reinforces Greig's central idea - that this can happen anywhere, to anyone. It's a dreadful conclusion, of course, but nevertheless a vital one for a society scarred by so many random killings to witness. Even those giggling children on the front row.

The Events continues at the Young Vic until 2 November. Read Michael Coveney's Edinburgh review here