A Made in Colchester Production at the Mercury Theatre Studio Colchester
for The Reviews Hub
First seen in 2013, and inspired at least in part by the Anders Breivik massacre of the year before, David Greig's powerful piece has been revived many times since.
Dan Sherer's production in the Mercury Studio is intensely visceral, its impact enhanced by the intimacy of the staging.
James Cotterill's set suggests a church hall; a uniform, monochrome grey for the walls and all the furniture, fixtures and fittings. There are skeletal trees and creepers, also grey. Grim reality mingles with the darkly surreal. The threads of the narrative emerge gradually. The text is often abstruse or elliptical, highly effective, but making considerable demands on the audience,
The euphemistic “events” of the title involve the murder by a lone gunman of the members of an inclusive community choir. One of the many strengths of this production is the formation, especially for the show, of a choir that reflects the make-up of the fictional choir in the script, trained and directed by Scott Gray. They sing the chillingly appropriate Sound of Silence, and Blur's Tender. They have lines to deliver; they are involved in the expressive movement. Great work, community choir !
At its best, Greig's dialogue is moving, disturbing, terrifying. Claire, victim and survivor, fantasises about adopting “The Boy” - the killer – dreams of terrible revenge, of smothering him at birth. The young man - “a Europe-wide malaise”, a tribal warrior – lives out his first “berserking” with frightening force. Their meeting – the desperate “forgiveness lady” sitting opposite the nervous, awkward boy in specs, confusing Claire with some girl in a silver car – is utterly gripping.
Not all the scenes have quite so much dramatic strength; not all of the characters Claire meets – all played by The Boy – are as convincing as The Father or the racist Politician. And it is not clear why Greig conceives Claire as a priest. The character is strong and believable, the psychology underpinning it is entirely credible. But religion has very little role, and she simply fails to convince as a woman of the cloth.
Both actors are phenomenal. Anna O'Grady inhabits Claire's haunted face very movingly – impossible not to share her distress, her mixed emotions, her trauma. And Josh Collins – memorable as the young squaddie in the same team's Bully Boy here in 2015 – handles the very challenging role of the terrorist sensitively. Is he mad ? evil ? “empathy-impaired” ? An engaging presence, he also takes on nearly all the other roles, with almost imperceptible changes in voice and demeanour. He's The Friend, The Journalist, and Catriona, Claire's yurt-builder partner – this detail one of the few, very welcome, moments of humour in an otherwise unrelenting study of the CoD enthusiastic who kills to protect his tribe.
There is a glimpse of redemption at the end of this descent into madness; new red chairs are unveiled, and Claire's colourless world is further brightened by the new choir, gaily clad, singing a capella “We're all in here ...”
production photograph: Robert Day