Mercury Theatre Colchester.
6 June 2017
The Events is playwright David Greig’s response to the terrorist attack in Norway in 2011, when a far-right terrorist murdered sixty nine people on an island, many of them young people. Fictional in response, the play is horribly relevant, and with press night just days after the London Bridge attacks, it is likely to remain topical for many years. However, following the One Love concert in Manchester, the play also examines healing through the use of music.
Claire ran a choir, a multi cultural, welcoming, and diverse and discrimination free gathering of people who love to sing and socialise. The Boy attacks them and kills many of them. In her recovery, Claire attempts to get an answer to the only question that matters- why? The truth is we may never know, as the Boy says, “shit happens.” This exemplary and outstanding production takes the audience through every aspect of exploring horror, and offers beautiful hope at the end.
Dan Sherer’s sensitive and encouraging direction has added many original touches to the script, and a wonderful community choir, led by Scott Gray, provide a vocal soundtrack that supports the story brilliantly. This isn’t a stripped down, rehearsal style presentation as seen at the Young Vic, Nancy Kettles’ outstanding movement work has layered the text, particularly a solo piece by Claire that symbolises the running and fear and horror of that day. The fact that members of the choir are named, and are so close to the audience, makes this even more powerful.
And then there are the central performances, two of the best I have ever seen at the Mercury. Anna O’Grady gives everything to the part of Claire, taking us through every aspect of emotion, living each line, passionate and committed. And Josh Collins is simply extraordinary, not just as the Boy, but subtly character shifting to play a far right politician, the boy’s father, a priest, and even Claire’s girlfriend. The intimacy of the studio space is perfect for this play, the Boy walks through the audience, and both actors talk and look at us directly. Shivers run up spines, this is acting of the finest quality.
The production is beautifully lit by Matt Leventhall, with a haunting soundscape by Tom Wilson. At first I wondered if James Cotterill’s set was a little overwhelming for the space, but of course, as the play progresses, it becomes a perfect symbol of Claire’s petrified soul, which she felt left her at the time of the attack, until the new choir enter at the moving conclusion. Despite the subject matter, this beautiful production emphasises tenderness and healing, in fact Blur’s Tender is one of the key songs. Perfect theatre.
Until 17 June 2017