The Banality of Evil

Inspired by the massacre of 69 people by Anders Breivik in 2011 in Norway, Daniel Greig’s work The Events (2013) attempts at grasping the unthinkable and exploring the limits of forgiveness in the face of monstrosity.

Italian Abstract

Ispirata dal massacro di 69 persone per mano di Anders Breivik nel 2011 in Norvegia, l’opera di Daniel Greig, The Events (2013) tenta di comprendere l’inconcepibile esplorando i limiti del perdono dinnanzi alla mostruosità.

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Greek Abstract

Εμπνευσμένο από τη μαζική σφαγή 69 ατόμων από τον Άντερς Μπρέιβικ το 2011 στη Νορβηγία, το έργο Τα γεγονότα (2013) του Ντέιβιντ Γκρέιγκ επιχειρεί να κατανοήσει το αδιανόητο και να εξερευνήσει τα όρια της συγγνώμης ενώπιον μιας θηριωδίας.

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Can one do evil without being evil? This was the puzzling question that the philosopher Hannah Arendt grappled with when she reported for The New Yorker in 1961 on the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi operative responsible for organising the transportation of millions of Jews and others to various concentration camps in support of the Nazi’s Final Solution. Arendt found Eichmann an ordinary, rather bland, bureaucrat, who in her words, was «neither perverted nor sadistic», but «terrifyingly normal».

Now, fifty-something years later, Scottish playwright Daniel Greig uses the same seemingly insoluble question as a stepping stone from which to elaborate on the concept of pain and forgiveness through the voice of the beautifully rumbustious soul of Claire, a left-wing female priest (a teacher in the Greek production, in line with the ultra-orthodox context with which the techne has to constantly come to terms with) who leads a community choir and has to face the consequences of a faith-shattering act of violence.

Commissioned and first produced by Actors Touring Company, in co-production with the Young Vic Theatre, Schauspielhaus Wein and Brageteatret, The Events premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in August 2013, and is now touring around Greece thanks to the initiative of the Greek National Opera, in co-production with the Municipal and Regional Theatres of Corfu, Kozani, Serres, Crete, Kalamata, Agrinio, Theatre of Thessaly and Ferodo Bridges.

«Claire (played by Maria Kexagioglou), a teacher running a local amateur chorus consisting of immigrants and people from socially vulnerable groups in her spare time, believes that there is an explanation about what is going on in the world. One day an armed young local man (played by Konstantinos Bibis) barges into her rehearsal room and starts shooting. Claire will be the only survivor and the only thing she wants to do is understand why this happened. The Events is a political work exploring the rise of the extreme right, neofascism and xenophobia through an attempt to approach the “beast” itself».

Based on a screenplay that leaves almost everything to the discretion of the director (a rather scholastic Alexandros Raptotasios), Greig’s play requires the presence of a different local singing group for each night of its performance (a choir that cannot rehearse before its one and only performance, giving to the play that constant feeling of mutability that characterizes our lives), evoking in a way the ancient Greek tragedies of yore and thus fitting in the modern Greek scene of today, imbued as it is in music and theatre. Moreover, this pas de deux for actors and choir harmoniously blends in both with the specific setting of the Corfiot performance (an island with a strong and vibrant musical tradition) and with the contemporary Hellenic society. Indeed, whether serendipitously or not, choosing to perform this specific play in this specific historical moment in Greece (and Europe, too) speaks volumes about how tightly-knit the symbiosis between theatre and society can be.

Regrettably, from Breivik’s days till now, racially-driven, pro-Nazi-mentality mass-shootings and crimes did not wane – just the opposite. In the days in which I am writing this review, the country of hospitality and democracy (as locals themselves like to describe it) is coming to terms with the resurgence, at an institutional level, of fascism and far-right ideologies of the last years: the extremist political party Golden Dawn (in the Greek parliament from 2012 to 2019) has been now convicted as criminal organization and almost all of its members were found guilty of heading or participating in a criminal organization «dressed in the mantle of a political party».

But even long before their official politicization, the neo-Nazi ideologies that are still lurking over the world have left many deaths and many open wounds in their wake, that gape at the living in despair. Indeed, the post-traumatic stress disorder affecting the protagonist of The Events could be easily extended to the entirety of the contemporary society. We all feel great anger, a hunger for retribution and, most importantly, a need to find answers, and plays such as this can help us elaborate the pain. «To understand everything is to forgive everything», said the Buddha, but is there really a way to forgive such acts of violence? Can we truly reach the illumination that everyone, even killers, is always acting out of fear, that there is no such thing as evil, but only impotence in communicating with one another in a peaceful way? Can we accept the fact that we are all, simply, humans? Only time, and other events, will tell.

 

The show was played at
Mon Repos Theatre «Rena Vlachopoulou»
Dorpfeld 16 – Corfu
from 8 to 11 October 2020
20.30

the Greek National Opera presents
The Events – Τα Γεγονότα
by Daniel Greig

in co-production with the Municipal and Regional Theatres of Corfu, Kozani, Serres, Crete, Kalamata, Agrinio, Theatre of Thessaly and Ferodo Bridges.
direction translation and sets Alexandros Raptotasios
cast Maria Kexagioglou and Konstantinos Bibis
music and lyrics John Browne
musical direction, chorus coaching, music and lyrics adaptation Konstantinos Thomaidis
costumes Marie Cecile Inglesi
lighting Eliza Alexandropoulou
soundscapes Alexandros Drimonitis
chorus coordinator Anna Efthymiou
choirs San Giacomo Municipal Choir of Corfu (8, 9/10), Mixed Choir of Acharabis “Nikolaos Pouliasis” (10/10), Corfu’s Female Choir (11/10)

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