"It's 'How do we stop it happening?' That's the question. That's what everyone's trying to find the answer to."
When the news broke that Anders Behring Breivik attacked the Workers' Youth League summer camp in Norway on 22 July 2011 — killing 77 people, many of whom were children — the entire world was rocked to its core. Now, in the wake of last month's Paris attacks, The Events written by David Grieg holds an ever-poignant message about violence, community, and asking "why" human beings commit such atrocities.
"It's a play about a woman who has survived an attack on her choir that she runs, and it follows her in the aftermath of how she deals with living after such an event that happened in her life," says Catherine McClements, who will play Claire in the Belvoir, Malthouse Theatre and State Theatre Company Of South Australia co-production of The Events, which will also play at the Sydney and Adelaide Festivals.
"What's happening in Paris, it's very raw and it has changed our perception of what life is like in a big community."
Our interview takes place the week before rehearsals begin, and even though McClements doesn't know how it will all unfold, she has found herself contemplating existential questions surrounding humanity. "It just sort of opens up the questioning of how we can heal, how we can forgive... Can we forgive? And explores what a human being does in these situations. Certainly what's happening in Paris, it's very raw and it has changed our perception of what life is like in a big community, and I think we'll bring that to the piece.
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"It's 'How do we stop it happening?' That's the question. That's what everyone's trying to find the answer to," she says.
The Events is not an entirely tragic play. "There's a great sense of humour in the play - that's what it means to be human as well, the idea of connecting with other human beings. It's what's happening in Paris. It's what happened in Brussels [during the lockdown] when they sent those cat photos. That suggests beautiful human experience of fear, and the horror of it, and it's a way of healing and coming together as a community."
Johnny Carr, who plays ten other characters in the play — including the young shooter — will join McClements on stage. "Having one person act out all these different things is sort of like her one mind trying to find out who this boy is and all the different elements of him - it's the same actor playing all these different parts of him," she muses.
Also appearing will be local community choirs, adding a musical dynamic that weaves itself into both the plot and the overall atmosphere of the play, evoking a Grecian chorus.
"Every performance a different choir comes on stage. That's the whole dynamic of the play - inviting the community on stage to explore these themes. They [the choir] haven't seen the play before. They know their cues and everything, but they're watching the play unfold as well as the audience, so it's almost the audience reflected back to them while they watch.
"In the theatre - when we hear everyone laugh, when we see a human being on stage - we are in a living, breathing organism. We don't cease to exist, we feel very much alive. And that's exactly what the play's about."