“There comes a point when you’re shooting people and you just realise how silly it is”
David Greig’s The Events turned out to be quite the success in 2013, deeply affecting audiences from the Edinburgh Fringe through to the Guardian critics who voted it their show of the year. So it is perhaps unsurprising to see Actors Touring Company resurrecting their production for a new tour in 2014 but what is more impressive is the reach that this piece of theatre has managed to achieve in so relatively short a space of time. A Norwegian production has just opened, a German translation has played Vienna and will go to Dammen, and this particular tour will revisit the Young Vic, amongst other places, before heading over to the USA.
So clearly, something is working in this quietly dramatic response to the atrocities committed by Anders Breivik when he slaughtered 77 Norwegians in the summer of 2011. With director Ramin Gray, Greig explores how a similar but fictional tragedy reverberates throughout a community – the differing individual responses from victims and those more tangentially affected, the communal reaction as a whole, even the experiences of the killer himself, as a liberal priest searches for answers as to why she survived the attack that left so many of her fellow choir-members dead.
First time round, I did enjoy the show, although ‘enjoy’ is completely the wrong word, but found it be something I felt rather than truly understood. It is undoubtedly highly charged with emotion but the very nature of its format means it is fragmented, fraught, sometimes difficult to follow. So the opportunity to see it for a second time, after also having read the play a couple of times, was one I was glad to be able to take, and it did a lot to enrich the experience. Like the messiness left behind in a crisis, The Events is dense, complex, confused and compelling – angry at what has happened, unsure of how to move forward.
The evocation of the randomness of life, the senseless destruction that evil wreaks, but also the things it cannot destroy proved more affecting second time round, its undeniable power certainly stronger for the preparation I had had. A new cast is in place – the luminous Amanda Drew as distraught minister Clare is heart-wrenchingly good and Clifford Samuels is hugely impressive in the technically demanding role of every other character in the play. But the masterstroke is the inclusion of a choir at each performance, picked from the local area and providing the additional voice needed to show what community really means.