David Greig’s daring new play The Events has just finished a sell-out run at the Young Vic. The production explores our destructive desire to fathom the unfathomable and asks how far forgiveness can stretch in the face of brutality. Each night, a different London choir performed as part of the show.
Tim Neumann is a member of the Young Vic Open Voices Choir, one of the many choirs involved, and he told us
about his experience of being part of this very special production.
‘My own journey with The Events started in October 2012 at a singing workshop, where composer John Browne and director Ramin Gray tested out a few ideas for an emerging play. The workshop ended with us singing the line “Someone will surely come” to a half-improvised melody, with lead actress Neve McIntosh stacking up chairs as a lonely figure. A particularly moving scene.
One year later, and the improvised “Someone will surely come” morphed into a fully composed “We’re all here”. ‘We’, in this case, is Young Vic Open Voices, a rather diverse collection of ordinary Lambeth and Southwark residents recruited through Young Vic’s Two Boroughs project. The play features a different community choir each night, and looking at us I cannot help thinking that we embody the idea of a community choir exceptionally well.
What sets us apart from other choirs is that we are, in fact, not a regular choir, and some of us are not even too passionate about singing! We are effectively just a bunch of neighbours with an interest in theatre, so the prospect of mastering seven songs within just nine weekly rehearsals was daunting. But thanks to our energetic choirmaster Rob, we progressed quickly and swelled with pride at the final rehearsal when Kirsten and Imogen from the Young Vic declared that we sounded “like a proper choir”.
The rehearsals, light-hearted though ambitious as they were, were part of the overall fun, including Super Sunday, a joint rehearsal with multiple choirs involved in the play, led by members of the production team. By that time, we were really keen on using our new skills for real. And we actually wanted to see the play – while the plot was roughly outlined to us, we were kept in the dark enough to be a normal audience in between our parts.
Just about two hours before the performance, we were properly briefed and handed the ‘Order of Service’, a folder with our score, stage directions, and small bits of text that we were supposed to read out, and not recite from memory. The production team was taking a gamble by involving amateurs, so they wanted to reduce risks as much as possible. This was evident in an overly detailed health and safety briefing as well as extremely clear and slow-paced directions, with ample guidance on avoiding potential pitfalls. The production team knew very well how nerves can turn even the simplest task into a minor disaster, and I am sure I was not the only one to appreciate their reassurance.
Our first performance went very well, with only two unnoticeable glitches. Back in our dressing room, a warm feeling of post-performance satisfaction was paired with a somewhat pensive mood, due to the nature of David Greig’s impressive play, leaving us to brood over our own take on forgiveness and coping. Luckily we had two more performances to look forward to, two more opportunities to observe and support Neve McIntosh’s and Rudi Dharmalingam’s outstanding acting, all thanks to the wonderful community engagement work of the Young Vic and the Actors Touring Company.
When I left the theatre, an audience member was still singing the closing song “We’re all here”. Well, here we are, and I hope that we, as Young Vic Open Voices, will be back!’.
Member of the Young Vic Open Voices Choir