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Value Engineering: Scenes from the Grenfell Inquiry at The Tabernacle

The Grenfell Tower fire was a shocking tragedy that shook this country. And yet, at the same time, it was an inevitable product of the disgraceful malpractice that happens across this country. Nicholas Kent’s new show makes this truth irrefutable in this retelling of a bitter, gruelling inquiry that should make us consider the structures that allowed Grenfell to happen.

Grenfell - Value Engineering - Derek Elroy as LESLIE THOMAS QC (BSR Group Barrister) - The Tabernacle - Photos by Tristram Kenton.
Grenfell – Value Engineering – Derek Elroy as LESLIE THOMAS QC (BSR Group Barrister) – The Tabernacle – Photos by Tristram Kenton.

The audience enters to find a stage set for an enquiry, the design and the excellent detail set this play in a harsh, strict environment where corruption and awful mishandling of duties will come to light. From there, we view nigh on three hours of the Grenfell Enquiry, taken verbatim. Nicholas Kent’s selection of text takes us through the repeated negligence, laziness and failure to fulfil legal duties that made Grenfell the “ticking time bomb” that it was.

It is hard to describe the shock felt in the audience by the extent of the malpractice; every level of the refurbishment of Grenfell is exposed to have been handled unethically. The play never mentions the government, and perhaps this is intended to loom over the stage; however, naming this may have given focus to government failures.

There is a plainness to the way the story is presented; there is very little character, minimal narrative other than the development of the inquiry. Of course, there is risk in putting a documentary on stage, but the show is immensely compelling, and the motivations of the show are evident throughout.

Lights remain on throughout the show, and so we are not allowed to shy away from the truth about Grenfell. This works to a significant effect, stopping us from subconsciously fictionalising the wrongs committed. And while the content is upsetting beyond much else on stage, at no point does any of it feel mishandled, although I do not have the perspective on this as others may. The performances are all strong, and while the acting is certainly not a focal point in this, the cast, most notably Ron Cook as Richard Millett, is excellent in immersing the audience in the happenings of the inquiry.

It is shocking, and there is not much else to say. There are so many places in the play when one moral choice would have stopped so much death and destruction of lives. That is the knot of anger I leave with, that privilege, laziness and arrogant, selfish corruption led to 72 wrongful deaths and hundreds of devastated lives.

4 stars

Review by Tom Carter

“The Grenfell fire did not happen in a vacuum… it happened within a pocket of one of the smallest yet richest boroughs in London.” Leslie Thomas QC in evidence to the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, July 2020

It’s one thing to work out how the fire was caused, and how the deaths were caused; the bigger question is: why did this happen?” Michael Mansfield QC at the Inquiry, March 2021

Nick of Time Productions
in association with The Playground Theatre present
GRENFELL: VALUE ENGINEERING
SCENES FROM THE INQUIRY
The Tabernacle
13 October – 13 November 2021
Edited by Richard Norton-Taylor
Directed by Nicolas Kent
https://grenfellvalueengineering.com/

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