There are moments in human history that we seek to understand. Tragedies that we want a reason for, a why to hold on to. The Events wades through the mysteries of one such unexplainable human tragedy through two actors and a guest choir. It is the story of a lesbian priest named Claire (Neve McIntosh), struggling to deal with the aftermath of a mass killing, inspired by the infamous Norwegian mass killing perpetrated by Anders Breivik. The Boy, played by Rudi Dharmalingam, acts out manifestations of the killer’s blog entries, Claire’s partner Catriona, the boy’s father, his politician idol and so on. Throughout, a guest local choir (one that changes each night) sings or reads lines as prompted by Claire and The Boy.
The play seems not to seek to actually answer the question of why or how, right or wrong, but instead to force the audience to feel the confusion, chaos and disbelief that must have been felt in the aftermath. The production unravels the story of what happened in that choir room that day, what Claire herself witnessed. Throughout that reveal, however, The Boy breaks into her conscious, acting out parts of a talk show host fielding questions on his life, responding as she imagines what could have been if she had met The Boy at certain points in his life and preparing to follow an ancient ritual to go “berserk”. The play, for something so dark in topic, is surprisingly funny. The audience audibly responds with laughs and gasps as the play jettisons you between humor and sadness, laughter and horror. This is what takes you on the emotional roller coaster and leaves you breathless by the end of the show. The audience response itself is one of the most fascinating: seeing when people feel comfortable laughing, if they will high-five a killer.
The triumph of this piece falls on the two lead actors, especially as they have to carry along a rotating group of nonprofessional performers each night. McIntosh is a solid emotional center, asking our questions about such travesties and echoing the confusing and sometimes destructive choices we make to deal with them. However, Dharmalingam is truly captivating and brings the production to a whole new level. Charming and devious, he draws you in while inducing both horror and sympathy. Even as he picks up his roles outside of The Boy, he does not become completely new characters. Instead, he adds little quirks on top of his established character of The Boy, creating the feeling that we are watching manifestations of Claire’s conscious, that he has invaded her entire world.
The idea of including rotating local choirs is an interesting one, designed to bring in a level of humanity and community. It makes this story universal. For the most part, this choice works. The acting is stiff and awkward and occasionally they even mess up their lines. However, in this case that helps the production. It put the audience in the minds of Claire’s friends, confused on how to respond to her increasingly crazed actions. And it brings real humanity into a highly stylized production.
Claire wants to know why: why did he do it? Why did he ask her and the other woman trapped with her who to use his final bullet on? Why did they answer the way that they had? The Events explores an unexplainable human tragedy and tries to find acceptance, to find peace in the face of chaos. The final moment is perhaps a little too sentimental; however, after this emotionally wrought play it feels earned. The Events is not only highly entertaining, but makes you question and examine horrible moments that the news shows can happen anywhere, does happen anywhere. Moments that we are all still trying to understand and move past.