Scottish playwright David Greig’s The Events is a harrowing study of madness, mass murder and evil and the unfathomableness of these events. Inspired by the 2011 massacre by Anders Behring Breivik on a summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya, wherein Breivik killed 77 people and injured 319 others, Greig’s pressing question is: why?
Greig’s displays a kind of free form, no holds barred approach in his story telling and it this is kind of style that suits multiple award winning actor Catherine McClements down to a tee.
“I always enjoy the challenge of shows that are not classically narrative plays,” she says about The Events in which she plays, Claire, an Anglican Minister, attempting to understand the mind of a killer. “What attracted me about this project was its unusual form and its lack of sensationalism with the material.”
The play is effectively a two-hander ( although the production does feature a choir that acts as the inner voice of McClements’ character) giving us insight into both psyches. Johnny Carr plays The Boy, a psychopathic killer whose presence probes the question of madness vs. evil.
The play is an emotionally charged journey for both, but experienced and talented actor McClements posits the power of the less is more philosophy. “I think the major challenge in such a play is not to be flooded in sentiment but still understand the experience such an event has on us fragile creatures,” she says. “The play attempts to engage our minds and hearts in the contemplation of these attacks. Often in performing the difficult bit is not being on stage but the time spent in the dressing room! I find it a gift if you walk on at the beginning of a play and participate on stage till the end.”
She acknowledged that the difficulty with a two hander only really rears its head if you don’t click with your fellow performer but ‘clicking’ can take many forms. “With so few actors the importance of the other creatives grows for me in the rehearsal room,” she says. ” The intelligent and artistic thoughts, not only from the director, but our M.D. Luke and our designer Geoff were crucial in the creation of Johnny’s and my performance.”
When it comes to truly frightening and challenging topics as this, source material is both regrettably plentiful and essential. “At the time we were rehearsing quite a few books were published pertinent to our project,” McClements says. “The biography of Anders Brevick, the teachers account of the Sandy Hook massacre and the mothers account of the Amish school massacre were extremely potent at that time. Unfortunately there is no end to the material available when you are researching such an event. We would often come into the rehearsal room and debrief about what we had read or seen the evening before but always wanted to consider ,as the play does, why and what is to be done.”
Greig’s Claire is steadfast in her attempts to deal with what some may see as an impossible ordeal. McClements admires Claire’s dogged fight not to fall, against all odds, into despair as well as her ability to not shirk the difficult questions or thoughts in her mind.
Not surprisingly, The Events swept the awards at Edinburgh festival when it was first performed – a play that makes an audience sit up and pay attention should do nothing less. As well as the gut churning topic of mass death, Greig’s also espouses the virtues, importance and joy of community. McClements shares a quote from Shakespeare that Greig uses in the work: ‘This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine’ – the relevance of that quite profound.
June 21 – July 10