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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Impressive Performances Bring Necessary Angel’s Thought Provoking ‘The Events’ To Life

By Paula Citron on March 5, 2020

Necessary Angel 'The Events' (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Necessary Angel ‘The Events’ (Photo: Dahlia Katz)

Necessary Angel Theatre Company/The Events, written by David Greig, directed by Alan Dilworth, Guloien Theatre, Streetcar Crowsnest, Mar. 1 to 15. Tickets available at crowstheatre.com

Necessary Angel is one of Toronto’s most lauded independent theatre companies. Former artistic directors include Richard Rose, who founded Necessary Angel in 1978, Daniel Brooks and Jennifer Tarver — a line-up of Canadian theatre royalty if ever there was. The hallmark of the company has always been the presentation of substantive, thought-provoking contemporary drama, and new artistic director Alan Dilworth is certainly carrying on that tradition. His initial offering is prolific Scottish playwright David Greig’s The Events (2013), which has to be among the most challenging, complex and densely intricate plays to ever be staged in this city.

The Events is certainly not an easy play both in architecture and subject matter. Greig’s structure is fascinating because it is a slow reveal. He has deliberately given the audience a puzzle to solve, and how satisfying it is when the pieces begin to fit together and you finally get on the playwright’s wavelength. At first, conversations between Claire (Raven Dauda) and the Boy (Kevin Walker) seem disjointed and unconnected, until the penny drops and you realize that the two actors keep switching to different characters.

Necessary Angel 'The Events' (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Necessary Angel ‘The Events’ (Photo: Dahlia Katz)

Each mini-scene is designed to add to our knowledge of the events at the heart of the play, and expand on the personality profiles of Claire and the Boy. Grieg, by turn, presents his characters as sympathetic and pathetic. The themes that come out of their dialogue are deep and profound, and seem ripped out of today’s headlines.

Claire is an Anglican priest who runs a community choir. Another of Greig’s daring adventures in playwriting is that there really is a community choir that joins Claire on the stage along with pianist/music director Jacqueline Teh. In fact, there are ten different community choirs who appear throughout the run of The Events, and some of the members even have lines to say, although like all amateur actors, they have to learn to speak up. Along with a well-known folksong and hymn, the choir sings original choral pieces by Irish composer John Browne that are commentary on the plot and the characters. Set designer Ken MacKenzie has created a platform for the piano and the actors, behind which are rows of mismatched wooden chairs where the choir sits.

Necessary Angel 'The Events' (Photo: Dahlia Katz)
Necessary Angel ‘The Events’ (Photo: Dahlia Katz)

Grieg was apparently inspired by the shocking 2011 incident in Norway where a white supremacist killed 77 people at a summer camp on Utoya Island. In The Events, we slowly gather that the Boy was responsible for the mass shooting of Claire’s choir. As well as hearing the inner thoughts of both Claire and the Boy, we also follow fragments of conversations involving Claire’s psychiatrist, the Boy’s father, and Claire’s lesbian partner, among others.

Beset by survivor’s guilt, Claire is on a quest to find the answer to the question of why the Boy attacked her choir, which allows Grieg to delve into weighty issues of faith, forgiveness, and the battle for the soul, not to mention geopolitics, the nature of society, and the fragility of the mind. As another layer of complexity, at times we don’t know if we are watching reality or imagination. As a director, Dilworth keeps the staging clean, the pacing fast, and the characterizations strong. Dauda and Walker give impressive performances.

The Events is heady stuff. Greig is assuming that he is dealing with an intelligent audience willing to exercise their minds. This is not a play where you can leave your brains at the door.

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Paula Citron

Paula Citron is a Toronto-based freelance arts journalist and broadcaster who hosts her own website, paulacitron.ca. For over 25 years, she was senior dance writer for The Globe and Mail, associate editor of Opera Canada magazine, arts reviewer for Classical 96.3 FM, and dance previews contributor to Toronto Life magazine. She has been a guest lecturer for various cultural groups and universities, particularly on the role of the critic/reviewer, and has been a panellist on COC podcasts. Before assuming a full-time journalism career, Ms. Citron was a member of the drama department of the Claude Watson School for the Arts.
Paula Citron
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Follow me

Paula Citron

Paula Citron is a Toronto-based freelance arts journalist and broadcaster who hosts her own website, paulacitron.ca. For over 25 years, she was senior dance writer for The Globe and Mail, associate editor of Opera Canada magazine, arts reviewer for Classical 96.3 FM, and dance previews contributor to Toronto Life magazine. She has been a guest lecturer for various cultural groups and universities, particularly on the role of the critic/reviewer, and has been a panellist on COC podcasts. Before assuming a full-time journalism career, Ms. Citron was a member of the drama department of the Claude Watson School for the Arts.
Paula Citron
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Ludwig Van Toronto

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