Review: The Events

by Lynn on March 9, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Streetcar Crowsnest, Dundas and Carlaw, Toronto, Ont.

Written by David Grieg

Directed by Alan Dilworth

Original music by John Browne

Music director, Jacqueline The

Set and costumes designed by Ken MacKenzie

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Deanna H. Choi

Cast: Raven Dauda

Kevin Walker

A horrific event is intellectualized rather than the drama being realized, rendering the production dull.

The Story and Production. The Eventsis by David Grieg and is based on the 2011 massacre by Anders Breivik, a right-wing sympathizer, in Norway of 77 people at a youth summer camp.

In the play there is an ongoing conversation between Claire (Raven Dauda) who is a priest and the leader of a choir and a character listed only as The Boy (Kevin Walker) but is really an adult.  At times The Boy plays Claire’s lesbian lover, her psychiatrist, and The Boy who came into the room where Claire and her choir were rehearsing and started shooting.  Only Claire survived. So we see a character living with the trauma of surviving and all she wants is to find out why he did it. She sounds out her lover, her psychiatrist and The Boy himself to find out why he might have done it.

When the first production of The Events was performed in Scotland, Ramin Gray the director of that production wanted the public to have a larger stake in it so local choirs were invited to participate. Writer David Grieg concurred and wrote the participation of a choir into the text. So for every performance here in Toronto there is the participation of a different local choir.

First they sing a song of their choosing then they follow the various songs in the text.

I had the City Choir at my performance. There is nothing fancy here. They arrive in their street clothes: jeans, pants, sweatshirts etc. and sit on stage in chairs on a slightly raised platform facing the audience.  Jacqueline Teh is the music director and provides the piano accompaniment.

David Greig is a prolific, fascinating playwright. He can challenge an audience with what is really happening in a work and keep them gripped as he does in Touching the Void, a play about a mountain climbing adventure gone horribly wrong.  But he can also be challenging  because he can intellectualize a situation more than he realizes the drama of a situation and that’s what we have in The Effects. There are many and various speeches that go on and on before we realize who Claire is talking to.And one point we think it might be the killer but it turns out to be her lover. So challenging.

Alan Dilworth has directed a very pared down production. Designer Ken MacKenzie has created a bare stage except for the slightly raised platform on which are chairs for the choir, facing the audience. The piano is stage right. That’s it.

Claire played by Raven Dauda and the Boy played by Kevin Walker wear well worn clothes. She wears a minster’s collar. The two mainly face each other on the stage and talk. They move and cover the space, but what happens between those two characters is  intellectual discourse. Raven Dauda plays Claire as a wounded woman searching for answers of course. Kevin Walker as The Boy is also calm and single minded as the killer and the other characters.  The calmness he uses when talking about racist attitudes is chilling.

But the piece as a whole is challenging because of the lack of drama or tension.  It’s a horrific event and not only Claire but we need answers of why he did it.  The lack of drama makes it a hard go. At one point a member of the choir offers a few words but at my performance it was difficult to hear what this person was saying by the third row. I can’t imagine if they heard at the back. Not a good move. Perhaps they might microphone the speaker if they aren’t used to projecting?

Comment. The Events does deal with what is going on in our world today:  xenophobia, the fear of ‘the other’, the plight of immigrants. Claire questions The Boy about why he doesn’t like foreigners. He says he has nothing against them.  He just doesn’t want them in his country. Sound familiar? So one of the arguments of The Events is a tug of war between the insanity of that massacre and trying to find logic in it. Claire also found humanity in that terrible situation when she tried to protect one of her choir members. All good but if the intellectual argument is illuminated at the expense of the drama of the situation then it results in a dull production.

One can’t help but compare the production of Us/Them that is also playing in Toronto at the CAA Theatre, that deals with the massacre of 334 people (mostly children) in 2004 in Beslan, Russia. We are given the facts and figures and details but from the children’s point of view. Stunning.

Necessary Angel Presents:

Began: March 1, 2020.

Closes: March 15, 2020.

Running Time: 75 minutes.

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