Hannah Ray – Noncathartic tragic experience: David Greig’s The Events


Hannah Ray


Noncathartic tragic experience: David Greig’s The Events

In his 2016 monograph Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre, Hans-Thies Lehmann not only furthers the argument that political theatre no longer take the form of drama he made in the influential Postdramatic Theatre (2006), but argues that tragic experience belongs not to the dramatic protagonist, but to the theatrical spectator. However, contemporary views on political theatre and tragedy have tended to oscillate between Lehmann’s contention that the restrictions of dramatic form negate the specificity of individual responses (Lehmann, 2006; Lehmann, 2013; Lehmann, 2016) and the ongoing need to reimagine the possibilities of collective political engagement in the theatre through the reinvigoration of historical avant-garde forms (Hughes, 2011; Reinelt, 2019; Stevens, 2016). Consequently, this paper seeks to address overlooked examples of dramatic form which feature elements of co-authorship, participation and audience collaboration typically associated with the postdramatic paradigm. This paper will focus on David Greig’s The Events (2013). The  follows a narrative of grief following a mass shooting, and includes a volunteer choir from each community in which it is performed. However, the choir performs a limited role in the dramatic performance, functioning to frustrate the spectator’s desire for the narrative resolution of grief and revealing the compromised attachments and relationships embedded in these political and intersubjective relationships. The paper explore the role of anxiety as an affective response to loss which extends far after the performance event, and so troubles established and systems of identification by indicating a greater connection than what the performance might have seemed to offer. Finally, drawing on Adorno’s concept of mimesis, I contend that this contradictory and affective phenomenon constitutes tragic experience in participatory drama. 

Hannah Ray is undertaking her PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at UNSW. She completed her BA (hons) at the University of Manchester in 2015.   

Greig D (2013) The Events. London: Faber and Faber.

Hughes J (2011) Performance in a time of terror : critical mimesis and the age of uncertainty. Manchester ;: Manchester University Press.

Lehmann H-T (2006) Postdramatic theatre. London ; New York: Routledge.

Lehmann H-T (2013) A Future for Tragedy? Remarks on the Political and the Postdramatic. In: Carroll J, Giles S and Jürs-Munby K (eds) Postdramatic theatre and the political : international perspectives on contemporary performance. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Lehmann H-T (2016) Tragedy and dramatic theatre. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ;: Routledge.

Reinelt J (2019) Parsing the Post: the post-political and its utility (or not) for performance. In: Eckersall PaG, Helena (ed) The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics. pp.58-63.

Stevens L (2016) Anti-War Theatre After Brecht : Dialectical Aesthetics in the Twenty-First Century. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.