Massacre play set for Edinburgh

A CONTROVERSIAL play, partly inspired by the Anders Breivik massacre, will be shown in Norway after its premiere in Edinburgh.
Norwegian Anders Breivik killed 77 people. Picture: APNorwegian Anders Breivik killed 77 people. Picture: AP
Norwegian Anders Breivik killed 77 people. Picture: AP

David Greig has created a show set in the aftermath of a fictional college shooting, which will run at the Traverse Theatre this summer.

The acclaimed Scots playwright researched the project on Utøya island and in Oslo, three months after the atrocity that saw the far-right killer end the lives of 77 people.

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The premise of the play has already proved controversial and has featured on television in the Scandinavian state.

However, The Events is set in Scotland and the playwright has emphasised that the play is a wider study of such tragedies.

Mr Greig, who has also written the book for the eagerly anticipated Sam Mendes musical of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, met survivors of the July 2011 massacre with director Ramin Gray.

His fictional story follows a woman attempting to deal with the aftermath of a politically and racially motivated shooting at a college. When others automatically seek revenge for his crimes, she seeks to understand what would drive an individual to such violence, but her life is thrown into turmoil as a result.

London-based ATC will stage the play between 31 July and 25 August in Edinburgh, after which it will run in London, Vienna and Norway.

Despite the location, Mr Greig was keen to emphasise that the play was not about Breivik, who was sentenced to 21 years for 77 murders last August.

“This play is no more about Breivik than about Dunblane, than about Hungerford or the college shootings we have 
seen in America”, he told The Scotsman.

“The play is the story of a woman who has been at the centre of a shooting in a suburban town. Where another person might feel driven for a desire for revenge, she becomes consumed by the desire to understand 
why, and goes on a quest which ultimately leads to her meeting him in prison.”

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Mr Greig wrote the play, which features a full choir, 
during the Boston bombings, which killed three people and injured 264.

“I was 70 per cent through writing it when the Boston bombing occurred, and what I felt was so chilling was that many of the same things in the play started to pop up in the statements around the young perpetrator,” he said.

“This was young men who are almost all slightly disconnected from the wider community and their families, but however much you examine it, you can’t get to the heart of what drove them.

“When we look at Boston, Dunblane or other events which have happened with alarming frequency, they often appear to be outwith explanation, and I’ve tried to focus on how you try to explain what has happened.”

The Norway ministry of culture did not have anyone available to speak about the play.

In Norway, Breivik is often referred to as ABB, as people seek to avoid a name that has already garnered saturation coverage, including his trial, on television.

Ramin Gray, who commissioned Mr Greig to write the play, said he accepted that it would not be universally accepted in Norway. However, his company has been invited to stage it with Brageteatret, a major regional theatre group, and has received the backing of some survivors.

The Norway Ministry of Culture did not have anyone available to speak about the play last night, but the director admitted that the Norwegian Embassy in London had already expressed some concerns.

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He said: “I did have a meeting with the Norwegian Embassy and I got a strong reaction, privately, that they had heard enough about Breivik, and I accept some people may say they don’t want this.

“At the same, however, we’ve had a strong response and financial backing from Brageteatret who believe it is very important that theatre could provide such a forum.

“We also met a survivor named Bjorn who was on the island, and who Breivik shot at.

“He spoke about the appropriateness of it and he was convinced of what we were doing and felt it was crucial these things be talked about.

“He told us that he and many others are undergoing treatment for PTSD and one of the key elements is going over the story again and again and coming to terms with it.

“We will be playing in the play in Utøya island region, through towns and villages in the area, and with a Norwegian cast.

“We accept it is dark, but we and our Norwegian partners believe it’s important.”