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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Theatre review: The Events is filled with beautifully powerful moments

David Greig's drama explores how grief can be all-consuming with the help of a different Vancouver choir each night

Anyone who has experienced loss can attest to its power. In David Greig’s The Events, for one survivor following a horrific mass-shooting, it manifests in soul-crushing grief, and an all-consuming desire for answers.

While not specifically about the 2011 massacre of dozens of people in Utøya, Norway at the hands of a single gunmen, Greig uses this real-life event as inspiration for The Events.

Greig’s two-hander follows Claire, a priest and choirmaster, who survives the slaughter of her multicultural choir at the hands of a white supremacist. Feelings of survivor’s remorse fuels a near obsessive need to understand why. Working through her own version of the seven stages of grief, Claire’s need for answers nearly costs her everything.

Under the direction of Richard Wolfe, Greig’s characters come to life via riveting performances from Luisa Jojic and Douglas Ennenberg.

Balancing Claire’s anger, her sense of loss, and need for understanding, Jojic provides a wonderful range. Building from a quiet anguish to full-on rage, there are layers here which make Claire believable inside a story which often breaks with traditional theatrical conventions.

In an acknowledgement that it is more important to remember those who were killed instead of the name of their executioner, Greig simply names his other central character, “The Boy”. While Ennenberg gives him an intensity that is at times chilling, the real skill comes from his ability to create a uniqueness from each of the other characters he is called upon to play.

Among the other characters Ennenberg must play, is Claire’s partner. There is something oddly affecting in having the same actor playing both killer and partner. In one particularly devastating scene, the two participate in a passionate and emotionally resonant dance.

Much more than simply framing Greig’s story though, the choir also becomes a tangible and important element to The Events. The ever-present choir, played each night by a different Metro Vancouver group, not only becomes a Greek chorus, but reinforces notions of community and the very diversity which sadly seems to be at the crux of these types of atrocities.

As the opening night choir, Lynn Valley Voices, ended the show by singing “outside it is dark, it is raining out, but inside here is warm”, it was both metaphorical and very real.

The Events by David Greig. Composed by John Brown. Directed by Richard Wolfe. A Pi Theatre production, presented with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. On stage at the Russian Hall (600 Campbell Ave, Vancouver) until January 28. Visit for tickets and information.

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