The Grenfell Project at the Hope Theatre
June 2017 marked one of the greatest tragedies the UK has ever experienced outside of war. The Grenfell Tower fire changed London forever. Whether or not you live in the city, all of us struggled to comprehend how a tragedy of this scale could even happen especially in one of the most affluent areas in the world. The fire illuminated the fact that Kensington and Chelsea is also home to the biggest wealth divide in Britain. Lurking in between the multi-million pound houses is poverty and it’s profoundly heartbreaking that an incident of this scale is what it took for people to have their eyes opened. The shattering fact of the matter is that many, especially those in power, simply closed them again, failing to face the reality of the situation and the injustice of a preventable tragedy. This devised piece of verbatim theatre brings to light the inside story beyond what we might have seen in the news. By conducting interviews with the residents of the tower and other people affected, this young cast of seven expresses the voices of the victims without sugar coating the facts.
Theatre exists to entertain but also educate. We are all aware that 72 people needlessly lost their lives because of the flammable cladding, which was implemented to make the building more aesthetically pleasing. What many don’t know, though, is the full extent of how the residents were and are continuing to be despicably failed by the government.
With a combination of lyrical writing, physical expression and multi-rolling, The Grenfell Project is a respectful and sensitive piece of theatre. The ensemble has meticulously pieced together reports, interviews and individual testimonies to provide a truly authentic audience experience. Director Eleanor Crouch, who also performs, ensures the pace flows throughout whilst also allowing pause for reflection.
The set is minimal with just a flipchart and a painting of the tower created by Damal Carayol, who lost loved ones in the fire. The intimate setting of the Hope Theatre also works to the play’s advantage in cementing us into the world of the residents. This makes for some uncomfortable and at times truly immersive viewing, especially when the lights blackout and the actors use torches to convey an overwhelmingly real and raw depiction of what happened on that fateful night.
Esther Asabi, Daniel Brindley, Jamahyl Chan-Ellis, Victoria Izzard, Elanor Crouch, Gabrielle Ellison and Amy Sherlock all deliver powerful performances, working confidently as a team, sensitively providing voice to those that would otherwise perhaps not be heard. Emotionally exhausting, yes, but thought-provoking and important. This reviewer doubts any other art form could capture this subject matter so effectively.
The Grenfell Project is at the Hope Theatre from 12th until 30th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.