Tragedy and grief are tackled in David Greig’s Edinburgh Fringe award-winning The Events, now showing in sold-out performances at the Young Vic. Despite the horrific events at hand – a multi-cultural phobic modelled after Norway’s Anders Breivik who, in this case, guns down a local choir – the overall nuance of the show is pensive, even spiritual thanks to Linklaters Choir who beautifully hum African chants and other resplendent melodies throughout.
It’s not your typical depiction of a mass shooting, but it does raise all the points that would naturally haunt someone who experienced such an atrocity. Behind the backdrop of choir rehearsals – both before and after ‘the events’ – Neve McIntosh powerfully portrays Claire, the open-minded priest/choir director who starts the play as someone readily believing “everyone is welcome here” to someone with over-riding doubt and apprehension. With earnest, heartfelt emotions, she proceeds to interview the shooter himself, his father, a psychiatrist and her lesbian partner (all played by Rudi Dharmalingam) in an effort to figure out: Why?
What Greig, along with commissioning artists Actors Touring Company and Oslo’s Drammatikkens hus, probe Claire and the audience to think about is that not all questions have straightforward answers. The shooter, whose name ‘the boy’ is as ambiguous as his response, says “he kills to protect his tribe”. While the statement initially is too unfathomable to understand, Claire slowly articulates a similar protective belief in support of the choir members: now, her tribe.
The choir’s role uniquely takes the form of both subjects, quietly observing from the stands, to more active participants who reiterate Claire’s feelings in a reader’s theatre style of improvised, syncopated telling of events. In one way it works, allowing the choir to share their voice in the process, but at other times, it dilutes from Claire – the central character the audience begins to know, and like.
It can’t be helped thinking the show is far more suited for a Fringe Fest audience: running at just 80 minutes, it whisks through big issues and equally big questions. The counter-balance between the soothing choral sounds to the succession of main-stage interrogations is refreshing and works to lessen the edge, but somehow feels incomplete in its ownership of the subject. Either way, it can't be argued it's a performance that raises pertinent questions. And with different community choirs performing each evening, it's worth a second viewing.
The Events is running to 2 November from Mondays - Fridays at 7.45pm and Saturdays at 2.45pm and 7.45pm. Tickets are £10/ £19.50 with limited concessions available. Weekday performances are sold out; you're advised to call ahead for tickets on the day. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.