Review: The Events (Belvoir St Theatre)

belvoirstVenue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), May 12 – Jun 12, 2016
Playwright: David Greig
Director: Clare Watson
Cast: Johnny Carr, Catherine McClements, Pitt Street Singers, Wycliffe Singers
Image by Luke Cowling

Theatre review
There are probably no issues more pressing than those pertaining to immigration, terrorism and mass shootings. Trying to make sense of these realities has become an everyday fixation in many of our lives, and David Greig’s The Events is a timely and sensitive expression of those concerns. Claire is a priest and choir leader whose life and faith is shattered by a traumatic incident that transforms the complexion of all that she knows. Fractured and struggling to find coherence, Greg’s writing is a reflection of the protagonist’s state of being. The play is not an easy ride, but it provides valuable insight for all of us who are part of this contemporary and complicated discussion on nationhood and security.

The play’s structure lends itself to intrigue and tension, which director Clare Watson manufactures well, but its restrained emotional dimension prevents the show from creating the same resonances that we have come to expect when dealing with its themes. There is no shortage of television coverage on these matters, and they are almost without exception, full of cheap sentimentality and irrational fear, which The Events does not replicate, but what it delivers instead can feel underwhelming and uncomfortably tepid. Perhaps its intention is to guide viewership to a more cognitive response for its deliberations, which is a challenging task that it accomplishes at varying degrees.

Catherine McClements is impressive with the thorough authenticity she introduces to the stage, and the ease with which she is able to convey the magnitude and intricacy of Claire’s psychological condition. The aforementioned disinclination for melodrama is disappointing, but understandable. The actor tells the story well, and we learn all there is to know about her character and the circumstances, even if we are not engaged on a more emotive level. Johnny Carr plays a variety of roles opposite the leading lady, engrossing but not always distinct (probably a comment on Claire’s disillusionment with the world), with an energetic approach that we rely on for a propulsive sense of momentum.

Claire has the strength to move forward but she needs time. When disasters strike, we can try to forge ahead in blindness but the scars and stains they leave behind do not disappear without effort. In The Events, we are urged, in times of trouble, to humanise individuals when all our instincts want is for perpetrators of violence to become demonised. It is a story about forgiveness, the truth of its emancipatory effects and the difficulty of its embrace. The problems we face are hard, they may even be thought of as insurmountable, but life persists in spite of it all and we must negotiate its good and its evil the best we know how.

www.belvoir.com.au