Can the rational mind comprehend the motive behind a mass shooting? What if there is no adequate explanation for such an atrocity? David Greig asks these questions in his play The Events. Despite speculation surrounding The Events, Greig does not explicitly base the tragic plotline on Anders Breivik and the Utoya shootings, as had been garishly reported by the media; instead choosing to compassionately echo various ‘events’: Dunblane, the London bombings and Sandy Hook all come to mind.
The story centres on Claire (Neve McIntosh), a liberal priest of a small, unnamed village as she struggles in the aftermath of the massacre, in which a young unnamed gunman walked into her community choir rehearsal and shot dead several of its members. Not knowing the reason for the shootings consumes her. Desperately seeking more information on the gunman however, seems to get her further away from finding the truth. Claiming to have lost her soul, Claire endeavours to regain it as she begins to interview the gunman’s family, friends, the politicians he associated himself with and, in the final gripping scene, the shooter himself. With only two actors but many parts, Rudi Dharmalingham undertakes, with astounding versatility, a variety of roles including Claire’s partner Catriona, her psychiatrist, the politician and the gunman. Throughout, a real community choir are present on stage providing a musical background ranging from How Great Thou Art to Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers. In a play that draws on grief, anger, and desperation, the choir represents the bringing together of a community. The literal and metaphorical use of a different choir from a different locality on the tour of this play effectively conveys Greig’s concept of community, an aspect that features heavily in his other works.
As Claire pieces together the information gathered about the gunman, we begin to see her slow descent into madness. McIntosh gives a wonderfully convincing and poignant performance of the ‘victim’ as she commands the stage effortlessly. Ramin Gray’s clever employment of Brechtian alienation techniques - getting the choir to read lines from a script into a microphone - at points fractures the flow of the piece though ultimately added to the overall distancing effect. Greig is a master of producing a witty yet dark script, detailing the importance and strength of a community in modern society. The Event certainly lives up to its hype.