Review: The Events

Theatre

15.09.2015

Review: The Events

David Greig's The Events - Silo Theatre's latest - explores the psychological aftermath of an act of mass violence. Claire (Tandi Wright) is a priest whose choir came under attack, who is now a survivor, driven to the depth of obsession by the need to understand The Boy (Beulah Koale) and why he did what he did. Koale plays a multitude of roles: The Boy, The Boy's father, his friend, her therapist, her partner, a shy newcomer to the choir, figure after figure integral to her understanding of the events that took place. And the choir themselves are there too: each night, Wright and Koale are joined by a different community choir, who sing together onstage, unaware of what's in store. 

Edward Dever

I reckon Beulah Koale was luminous in his many roles.

Alex Taylor

Totally agree.

Edward

Sometimes it took a bit of working out to figure out who the next character was –

Alex

Particularly the first couple of changes –

Edward

– Which I think was a flaw of the scripting – but each of his characters were distinct and beautifully subtle.

Alex

And physical! The physicality was what made it for me. It cut through the philosophising that made up so much of the dialogue.

Rosabel Tan

They both gave such remarkable and harrowing performances - Tandi plays Claire with this nervous, unsettled, dangerous energy that makes her every move feel on the brink of explosion, whereas Beulah channels his energy outwards – like you say, he’s very physical, jittery, strident, confident. It reflects their own struggle: Claire’s violence is directed inwards, onto herself, while The Boy’s violence is directed outwards.

Alex

Explosive and implosive. Exactly.

Joseph Harper

I found the musical director extremely distracting.

Alex

For me, it was problematic the way he and the choir were lit and presented as part of the action.

Rosabel

They ARE part of the action!

Alex

They were more like an extension of the audience in the round but we couldn't treat them like that.

Edward

I found their reactions distracting at times  –

Joseph

I thought that was really good, the way they seemed kind of random. Ultimately they were capable of acting as a 'being' that was quite powerful.

Edward

 – It didn't matter so much until the high-intensity stuff starts going down, including seeing The Event play out.

Rosabel

Their innocence is compelling though – their reactions to everything are just as fresh as our own. They’re so vulnerable on that stage -

Joseph

I agree. They were so good when The Boy was flipping out.

Rosabel

And one of them in the front row started crying, silently.

Joseph

Oh man, yeah.

Rosabel

Can we take this a step back? What did you think, overall?

Edward 

I thought it was a really exciting piece of theatre. Having seen a few shows recently that use non-linear story telling to varying degrees of success, it was nice to see a story unreel itself so elegantly. 

Alex

I had trouble connecting to it at times. I felt like a voyeur.

Joseph

Yeah me too.

Rosabel

What created that gap for you guys?

Alex

The choir. The music. It promises so much. It sounds pernickety but it was a dead space for singing. The sound just died.

Rosabel

 Yeah the size of the theatre was an issue. You want the choir to engulf you and overwhelm you and instead they became a bunch of people singing on the other side of the stage.

Alex

I think it could have been wonderful in a resonant acoustic. But more than that, the gap was feeling like I was at once connected to the choir, they were part of the audience, but also feeling outside of that, watching them acting, or not acting, watching them work out how to hold themselves on stage.

Joseph 

I liked that. It was like a low-stakes version of the way we were witnessing Claire try to self-consciously put herself together.

Rosabel

The choir's amateurism is tricky, I agree. They fumble, and it can be endearing, or it can take you out of the show. On another level it also represents a level of risk-taking and willingness to be vulnerable (on the part of the theatre maker) that builds on everything the play's about. The world is unknowable but we still have to let it in.

Joseph

And I felt the choir represented that well. The way they would vacillate between that fumbling unsure mode and these very competent bursts of expression.

Edward 

From an audience perspective, although I felt like the choir pulled me out sometimes, that allowed me to flit between an empathetic response and an objective one. It was a nice way to engage with the central questions that the work poses.

Rosabel

And there are so many questions it poses, without ever trying to answer them, which I think is the show’s strength. We only ever catch glimpses of any kind of closure and Greig allows for so much doubt. I found that simplicity quite powerful; different points all circling the same unknown. And that juxtaposition of this community in harmony (ha) with this violent human darkness was discomforting. It speaks to the extreme endpoints of humanity – among people, but within us too. And the timing of that with this week’s images of the young Syrian boy –

Joseph

– Yeah it felt very timely.

Alex

Do we see the choir as a community in harmony? A microcosmic ideal of society?

Joseph

Maybe.

Rosabel

Maybe not in harmony, no, but at least an attempt.

Alex

I find that a bit problematic - the premise isn't really questioned.

Joseph

I thought it felt primal.

Edward 

It feels like the writer toying with the form a bit. Not sure how successfully. Maybe the right choir could make that feel really organic.

Rosabel

I think the concept of a community choir - as an all-inclusive group where anyone can join, where everyone comes together to make something with a shared vision - is pretty idealistic.

Joseph

Yeah a group of people with nothing in common.

Alex

Yeah that's true. It’s a pretty powerful thing to bring a group of people together with nothing else in common.

Joseph

That to me was reflective of a kind of primal desire for connection or something. That's what I meant by primal. Not the actual songs, but the act of singing and the desire to sing.

Alex

Yeah totally. It is.

I thought the suggestiveness, the not-quite-concreteness of the narrative, was powerful. The berserking scenes. The idea of ritual and the primal.

Edward 

Yeah, that berserking monologue was incredible - a really seamless dip into the psyche of the boy, without being overly didactic.

Alex

Because to me a lot of it took place inside Claire’s psyche. It didn't necessarily depict real events.

Edward

You mean the play as a whole?

Alex

I wasn't always sure where the boundary was. No, not the play as a whole but now and then.

Rosabel

Yeah those boundaries definitely bleed into one another

Okay, so final thoughts?

Alex

As an immediate experience, it didn't pack the punch I wanted or expected from it - but having said that I came away wrestling with some of its big questions, so that has to be a good thing.

Joseph

It was unique. If you're willing/able to give yourself over to it, The Events has a lot to offer emotionally and intellectually.

Alex

Robin [Kelly] should be applauded for training all those individual choirs!

Edward

Overall, I think the standout aspect of this play on the day were the actors, who built upon the vision of the playwright. It felt like they trusted the work, and so didn't feel the need to overcook anything - which culminated in fantastically subtle performances (particularly from Beulah), and a really clear set of takeaway questions that the characterisation didn't seek to answer. There were definitely places where the production as a whole could have been tighter - particularly the acoustics of the choir - but The Events is worth seeing for the wonderfully adept performances.

Alex

Definitely worth seeing.

Rosabel

I hear what you're saying, Alex - it doesn't take you to the heart of the trauma, but drives you deep into the kind of thudding, torturous, obsessive rumination that rumbles for weeks, months, years. I'm with you on the acoustics too, Eddy, but overall I'm all about this show. It’s a big conversation. We don’t have enough of these big conversations on our stages, and The Events is one of the few shows I’ve seen this year that attempts one. Wright and Koale are perfectly balanced in their energy, all anger and desperation and sorrow on that bare stage.

On a wider level, I think the show also points towards where the company is headed: it's not just theatre that seduces or comforts or entertains, it's theatre that interrogates power and vulnerability: how we deal with abuse (The Book of Everything), human loneliness and desperation made digital (Eight Gigabytes) and with The Events, violence and how it tears us apart, and how it lives within all of us, and how this means we are human. 


Silo Theatre's The Events runs at Q Rangatira 
from Sep 3 - 26 
Tickets available here
Choir list available here


Join our panel of experts on Monday 21 September 
in a conversation about The Events, violent crime, 
and the hard questions we aren't asking
Details about our speakers here

Monday 21 September - 7pm
Q Rangatira
Book your tickets here

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