Edinburgh Fringe 2013
The aftermath of a mass shooting, one woman’s quest for understanding and healing. Is there a limit to empathy? David Greig asks difficult and searching questions about how we respond to evil in society in an innovative new play that plays with form to create drama, that is deeply rooted in community and ultimately redemptive.
David Greig prefaces his extraordinary new play, The Events, with a line from The Tempest, ‘This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine’ in which Prospero accepts his responsibility for Caliban. Just as Prospero has distanced himself from the outsider, Caliban, throughout The Tempest so we look at the perpetrators of modern day atrocities as somehow alien and beyond understanding. Here David Greig challenges that assumption, probing the relationship between humanity and evil.
In The Events, a young vicar, Claire, is a survivor of a mass shooting in which many of her multicultural choir have been killed. The play tells the story of her quest to understand and ultimately to forgive. Neve Macintosh gives a fine performance as Claire, whose attempts to understand challenge her sanity, her faith and the very core of her being. Macintosh’s performance is controlled with the growing raw edge of desperation ever visible.
Claire is the central character among which the play revolves with Neve Macintosh the only actor to play a single role, strengthening the core quest that is central to the play. Then there is The Boy, the perpetrator of the atrocity who is both outsider and everyman, and a series of people who Claire meets in her efforts to understand: the boy’s father, schoolmate, journalist, politician. Rudi Dharmalington plays them all with sufficient differentiation to characterise but not to detract from the intensity of the central core.
Constantly present on stage is the choir, a local community choir for each performance. At times they look on, a mirror turned on the audience, watching and trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. At other times they sing and are part of the story, and at others, intervene in the action and comment with collective or individual voices. A Greek chorus in a tragedy is an actor beyond the individual actors on stage, a voice of society, and so it is here, a society that is instinctively repelled and yet probes to examine its conscience.
Ramin Gray’s direction is impeccable throughout. He gives clear, taut coherence to the challenging structure of the play, and orchestrates the competing demands of character and chorus to create an intensity that spirals into a controlled vortex of emotion.
David Greig’s play is a thing of beauty. His recent plays have been creatures of the light – this is one that belongs to the darker side of human consciousness, and yet here too he manages to shine light. The play balances its focus on the darkness with lighter moments that remind us that humanity is greater than its darkest moments. He moves away from verse to employ a language that varies from the everyday vernacular to a formality that is almost biblical in its lyricism.
This is a wonderful new play for our times, probing our understanding of humanity’s darker side, and sensitively exploring the difficult territory of the complexities of multiculturalism and the nature of the outsider in society. It’s a play that moves away from asking why, to ask: if we cannot understand, can we find a way to go beyond understanding to find some acceptance.
Sometimes there are no answers: only questions. But sometimes it is asking the questions that is important.