Review: The Events

Neve Mackintosh in The Events

The Events tells the story of a mass killing in a rural British town. There are shades of Dunblane and the high-school shootings committed by American boys on the edge of sanity and society, but the biggest influence was Anders Beiring Breivik’s massacre of 69 young political party members on the island of Utoya in 2011. Like that crime, the one in The Events is an act of catastrophic violence committed against a community bound by a common cause. On Utoya, the children were youth members of the same political party. In The Events, the group is a choir – an excellent metaphor for the paradoxical exclusivity of community.
The potential for communities to alienate is true even of ones in which tolerance is a central tenet. “Come on,” says Claire (Neve Mackintosh), the liberal priest and leader of the choir, to the boy before the killing, “you can join in.” But not everyone always feels like singing.
A special kind of sympathy – a kind reserved even for those who refuse to have sympathy themselves – glows at the heart of this play. Writer David Greig casts an understanding gaze at the killer in all his egomaniacal delusions, and on Claire, even when she’s at her most vengeful and unpriestly.
Despite the experimental elements – apart from Claire all characters are played by a brilliant Clifford Samuel – the approach is probing and academic. It wrestles, sometimes literally, at the limits of forgiveness. It takes the traditional frameworks we use to make sense of our lives and society and holds them up to something mad and inexplicable. Greig brilliantly shows that when politics, religion and anger fail us, there are still reserves of humanity which we can fall back on.