Understanding a massacre...

Drama teacher Regina Crowley is directing a play inspired by a terror attack which left 77 people dead. COLETTE SHERIDAN talks to her about the production, the wealth of young acting talent in Cork, and the need for a smaller theatre space on Leeside for experimental work
Understanding a massacre...
The Events is an award-winning play by renowned writer David Greig and opens in the CIT Cork School of Music (CIT CSM) Stack Theatre on Wednesday January 17. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

INSPIRED by the horrific shooting attack by a lone terrorist in Norway in 2011 in which 77 people were killed, The Events will be staged at the CIT Cork School of Music (CSM) from tomorrow, January 17, until Sunday.

This final year degree show is directed by Regina Crowley. However, while The Events, by Wales-based award-winning writer David Greig has a cast of just two, the play has been re-imagined by Regina, who is directing a cast of ten.

The play tells the story of Claire, a left-wing lesbian priest who leads a community choir. She experiences something devastating when a young man she barely knows turns a gun on those “who aren’t from here” in an attempt to make his mark on society.

Regina stresses that this production is not a restaging of a terrible event. Instead, it follows Claire’s attempts to understand how someone could do such as violent thing and how it leads her on a path to self-destruction. Ultimately, Claire finds her peace and resumes her place in the community.

The production’s eclectic score, including rap music, is composed by Cork-born, London-based John Brown.

Maggie Donovan and Katie Porter performing in The Events, an award-winning play.Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Maggie Donovan and Katie Porter performing in The Events, an award-winning play.Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Regina, who has been teaching drama at the Cork School of Music for around 20 years, saw the premiere of David Greig’s play at the Young Vic in 2014.

“I like his voice. It’s honest and incredibly simple and yet his texts have the ability to get under your skin.”

The Events is, says Regina, “a computation of the world today and how we cope with the darkness and evil in a world that’s full of sound bites.

“The ultimate message in the play is that some things are impossible to understand such as the mentality of Anders Brevik (who carried out the shootings.) But overall, it’s a play of overcoming and trying to celebrate humanity. It’s a contemplation of what the soul is.

“The nun is very much of today. She doesn’t fit into an easy stereotype. She tries to understand the boy who perpetrates the mass murder. He comes into her choir and she tries to include him.”

In many ways, says Regina, the play is the story of everyone.

“It’s how the good person could be a bad person and the bad person could have some goodness.”

Regina was somewhat surprised by the response of the Norwegians to the attack.

“Rather than calling for the death of Anders Brevik, the feeling was that the outsider had to be made to feel more included. Amazingly, Anders Brevik was Norwegian.”

The cohort of students putting on the play is the third group of final year students of theatre studies.

“We’re supposed to have a quota of only 20 students but we went over it as over 100 people turned up last year for only 20 places. Some of our students go on to work behind the scenes in theatre. In reality, there’s maybe one third of a half that go on to perform. A lot of them are forming their own theatre companies and making their own work.”

Maggie Donovan and cast performing in The Events. Picture: Michael MacSweeney/Provision.
Maggie Donovan and cast performing in The Events. Picture: Michael MacSweeney/Provision.

While praising the work of Julie Kelleher at the Everyman and Lorraine Maye of the Cork Midsummer Festival, for promoting theatre, Regina acknowledges that working in theatre is difficult.

“There isn’t enough funding out there. For people to sustain work is incredibly challenging. But I feel the energy and enthusiasm of graduates such as Alan Dalton and Sadhbh Barrett Coakley who are doing a residency with us. They formed a company called Alsa. One of our graduates, Tommy Harris, is performing at the Abbey in Let the Right Thing In.

“Another graduate, Emma Willis, is soon to feature in Vikings and has already been in many TV series. Numerous graduates and some current students feature in the forthcoming TV series, The Young Offenders, and Hilary Rose, who starred in the original film, teaches acting in the media at CSM.”

Regina is in the fortunate position of being able to travel abroad to impart her skills. In April, she is going to Shanghai to teach voice to actors for two weeks. She is a qualified Linklater voice teacher. She was in Shanghai last August, teaching with Philip Zarrilli.

“Philip, quite an acclaimed director and academic, is based in Wales. He directs me in a lot of Beckett shows. In China, we were working on Beckett in Mandarin. We were being translated and the actors were translated. It was a fascinating experience.

“When you’re teaching another culture, it’s kind of like a conversation. You can’t go into your usual mode. The Chinese are great to teach. They were not what I expected. They’re very forward, direct, loud and clear.”

Regina also taught in Japan last April: “That was very different to China. Japan is beautiful and the people are so lovely. But there’s such an element of courtesy and politeness, that you never really get to know someone.

“When I was teaching in Japan, for the first hour, everything I said was treated as definite truths. As a teacher, you’re seen as an authority figure. You have to find a way to be on the same page as the people you’re teaching.”

One gripe that Regina has is the lack of theatre space in Cork. While she praises the way Julie Kelleher is running the Everyman, with its broad range of shows, Regina says the space is too big for small companies.

“In Cork, there is a need for another theatre space, maybe a smaller theatre with regular stuff being put on. That would also work for experimental material,” she said.

But it’s all a question of funding and encouraging new work in a city that punches above its weight in terms of acting talent.

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