The director of a play based on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry says the production “holds people to account” and “shines a light on what is almost corruption”.
The not-for-profit theatre production, Value Engineering: Scenes From the Grenfell Inquiry, is based verbatim on the ongoing inquiry into the 2017 tragedy.
The play focuses upon phase two of the inquiry, which addresses the organisations involved in the building, maintenance and refurbishing of the towers, rather than the stories of the 72 victims or the survivors of the fire.
The director of the production, Nicolas Kent, said: “I think it very much holds people to account and does shine a light on what is almost corruption.
“It shows how people cut corners, how they tried to save money, all at the expense of the safety of those living in the tower.
“And I think there’s a very powerful speech in the play by Leslie Thomas QC, which actually shows how the people with disabilities, they were not listened to or were put on high floors.
“The fire escapes were just completely inadequate and people were living in terrible conditions, just because they were actually not the richest people in the borough.
“And if this had happened in the south of the borough, in Knightsbridge or Belgravia, this botched refurbishment would never have been allowed to happen.”
“It's one thing to work out how the fire was caused, the bigger question is: why did this happen?"Grenfell: Value Engineering – Scenes From The Inquiry sets out to discover why the devastating fire happened, and who was responsible.
— The REP (@BirminghamRep) July 13, 2021
The production has received criticism online as some feel is it inappropriate and insensitive to the victims of and their families.
When asked about this backlash, Kent added: “None of the criticism has come, as far as I know, from Grenfell, or people who live around Grenfell.
“Grenfell organisations like Grenfell United, Justice4Grenfell, Grenfell Next of Kin and the Lancaster West estate have all been very supportive and are organising Q&As.
“I think some of the criticism has come from misunderstanding, from people who’ve heard about the production and say it’s an intrusion into people’s grief.
“We’ve been very careful to anonymise certain residents and make sure that there isn’t an intrusion into people’s grief but it’s a call for justice.”
He also clarified it is a not-for-profit production and that they had raised all the funding for it – and confirmed any surplus money that does get made from it will go back to the funding charities, and any remaining proceeds after that, to the Grenfell Foundation.
Kent added that the ticket prices have also been made “very accessible” and those who live in the Grenfell area can get tickets at £5, or £2 on concession, if they go through their community partners.
Justice 4 Grenfell campaigner Yvette Williams, who was at the inquiry, was approached by Kent to look at the script and she said the “emotion was carried”.
She added: “I just think for us, it’s always about keeping what happened at Grenfell in the public conscience, and through whichever medium you do that, keeping the story out there for all types of access, is just one way of doing that.”
This is the ninth verbatim inquiry production Richard Norton-Taylor has edited, previously producing plays on Bloody Sunday, the case of Stephen Lawrence and the Nuremberg trials.
Discussing the purpose of dramatising the Grenfell Inquiry, Norton-Taylor said: “What people want to know, and I think that as a journalist want to expose, that it was avoidable, mistakes were made.
“Some cover-ups happened and all sorts of different almost layers of mistakes, powers one against another, cheating, dishonesty, cover-ups.
“This is, without getting too heavy about it, an allegory of British society or subcultures in certain parts of society or sectors of the economy, or indeed, public governance for example, about the treatment or their response to the Covid pandemic early on.”
Value Engineering: Scenes From the Grenfell Inquiry will run from October 13 to November 13 at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London, and at Birmingham Rep from November 16-20.