Theatre in Wales

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Second Tour Establishes Stature of this Production

Theatre of Scotland

The Events- Actors Touring Company , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , March 24, 2014
Theatre of Scotland by The Events- Actors Touring Company Dramaturgs and dramaturgy have been a topic for enlivened debate on Wales’ public Writers Forum this winter. Unlike much Internet fizzle it has materialised into a concrete conclusion, the widely welcomed creation of a formal dramaturgical scheme. Dramaturgy is an elusive practice and a tough-guy approach to aspiring writers might well be- if you have it in you, just get on and do it. There is hardly a writer in the world to match David Greig’s track record, in the sheer number of plays as well as the vaulting range and depth. But the six-strong creative team for “the Events” includes the presence of Oda Radoor and Brigitte Auer as dramaturgs.

The necessity of the dramaturgical presence is clear. David Greig’s mastery of writing for stage has been evidenced in “Midsummer” and “Damascus”, reviewed here January 2011 and August 2007 respectively, but “the Events” is a higher level. Its first tour was reviewed here November last and a second viewing is a different experience. With the narrative familiar to the watching eye other elements come to the attention. Three in particular come to the fore.

The first is the ambition, the scale of the risk that made necessary the participation of Oda Radoor and Brigitte Auer. As in all big risk the underside might well have been a short squib of a show to be seen briefly in the Edinburgh melee. But it toured, won the accolade of the Guardian’s best theatre of the year, and the new tour includes the USA. An overload of praise may easily turn into a burden whereby expectation is inflated. “The Events” lives up to its description.

Secondly, “the Events” is formally innovative. At each venue associate director Polina Kalinina and pianist Magnus Gilljam rehearse a local choir but at speed. For some productions the choir has come from a school or academy but in Aberystwyth it is community choir Heartsong that fits the role. The range, age and appearance, makes Heartsong very fitting for the volunteer choir that has been organised by Grieg’s fictional pastor Claire. The twenty members of Heartsong are naturally asked to sing but they also play a part in the action. The lines are spoken script-in-hand. The reason for this is that the choir members have had no sight of the full script. When not required to perform they sit in two rows facing into the auditorium. Uniquely, they are both performers and audience.

The performance is only the third in the tour, a couple of nights in Brighton, a day off, then Saturday night in Aberystwyth. The newness of the production and the challenge for actors sharing a stage with twenty local singers are invisible. The two actors are onstage for the unbroken ninety minutes. Amanda Drew plays the role of Claire, taking her character through bewilderment, anger, relentless questioning and anguish. Intelligence is never an easy quality to capture but when Claire demolishes an easy linguistic label like “empathy-impaired” Amanda Drew conveys the truth that intelligence can at times be its own enemy. Greig’s script brings Claire to a kind of redemption and the effect is as simple as it is moving.

The acting task for Clifford Samuel is the opposite. He has to cross at speed a range of parts, parent, friend, partner. There is a moment at which he lies full length on a piano regurgitating a mix of fly agaric mushroom and reindeer urine. The script then requires him to sit up, swivel round and instantly transform to become supporting partner Katrina. The audience gives a quiet gasp of admiration. When Clifford Samuel finally gets to be the Boy in his cell his acting embraces a mix, taking in a blithe unawareness and an unsettling social perkiness.

A second viewing also reinforces the craft in the writing. An opening speech re-appears at the close with an accretion of meaning that it has acquired over the course of the action. A scene between Claire and a stranger is suddenly tipped upside down by a single line. Among the strange pathways down which Claire leads her choir is a shamanistic rite. Clifford Samuel communicates Dave the Shaman with just a movement of the body, but it is a comic touch. David Greig knows that a play cannot sustain itself on unbroken moral gravity. Dave the Shaman is there in the way that the Porter is there in “Macbeth”. It is evidence of a writer with deep knowledge of his art.

“The Events” comes to Cardiff April 2nd-3rd. New writing in Wales is marked by great ambition. All should benefit from the opportunity to see a peak of accomplishment from Scotland.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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