Grenfell: Value Engineering – Scenes from the Inquiry at The Tabernacle
Walking out of the Tabernacle theatre, heading to Ladbroke Grove, the gigantic green heart enveloping what used to be a tall residential building dominates the panorama of West London. It’s a mark of community solidarity and a sorrowful memory of the greed and negligence of society. What is left of the Grenfell Tower stands as an ominous reminder to act now, in order to avoid future tragedies, and implement better legislation and control over the people who had the opportunity, more than once, to avert such a disaster.
After the terrible events of June 2017, an inquiry began to investigate what led to the decision and numerous approval processes for the use of flammable cladding on a tower that would house many working class, mostly BAME residents. With the progress of the inquiry, other distressing elements came to light: the fire escape routes were insufficient, the window gaps (that would have prevented the outside covering from burning so quickly) was nonexistent, the sprinklers were scarce. The more testimonies, documents and emails are gathered, the clearer the chain of coverups and negligence becomes, from one organisation to the next, from the architectural studio to the building materials provider, and through numerous authorities.
With Grenfell: Value Engineering – Scenes from the Inquiry, Richard Norton-Taylor offers a verbatim account of the second part of the investigation, which took place between January 2020 and July 2021. Due to the pandemic, the sessions could not be accessed by the public at the time. The script cuts and highlights the pertinent segments for a comprehensive summary. The evidence presented and the meetings discussed offer the audience technical details and legislative passages in a digestible and consistent way. What is missing is the certain dramatic dynamic expected in a theatre piece of over two hours’ running time. Few segments inject any energy to the pace, and more often than not the conversations plod along. Even if the intention was to preserve an account as close as possible to the actual sessions, the script could have been adjusted at various points for a more engaging experience. The static setting doesn’t offer much variety for the eyes and mind, directing, instead, full attention to the content. Because of this, the result suffers even more; the play would clearly have benefited from some tweaking of the material.
A special note goes to the cast, who perform their roles either cold or emotionally raw, and particularly to Ron Cook (playing the Counsel to the Inquiry) – the tenacious supporting column of the whole piece.
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Grenfell: Value Engineering – Scenes from the Inquiry is at The Tabernacle from 13th October until 13th November 2021. For further information or to book visit the production’s website here.