Value Engineering, scenes from the Grenfell Inquiry by Richard Norton Taylor. The Tabernacle, London to 13 November 2021. Birmingham Rep 16 November to 20 November 2021. William Russell.

Awarding stars is something I cannot bring myself to do. At the end of this devastating account of the evidence given to the Inquiry the audience sat in silence. Applause seemed almost obscene. So does awarding stars. Eventually some people broke the silence but even then lots did not join. It seemed the wrong thing to do having listen to this catalogue of wrong doing sometimes by design, sometimes through lacking the knowledge a job required, sometimes the result of making a profit, of witness statements that were incorrect and documents that had been binned allegedly in all innocence and, in the closing speech from Michael Mansfield learning that it had all be forecast a decade before – trouble makers are anathema to Kensington officials – and the warnings ignored. The tower was an eyesore, the cladding was intended to make it look palatable in the eyes of the Kensington, a wealthy borough where appearance matters and the views of the residents did not. This is not the end of the Grenfell story by any means but from the evidence Norton Taylor has assembled you realise the extent of buck passing, cost cutting and simple failure to look at what was happening – an official mention she has had a Lakanal moment, referring to the Camberwell fire where the same cladding resulted in six deaths, but it passes and nothing is done. The audience see the memos, e mails and letters exchanged projected on three screens as the counsel for the inquiry played by Ron Cook questions the witnesses. At the end the names of the 72 people who died are put up on the screens. The enormity of it all hits home even more than it already has. It is not a great dramatic piece, but a report clearly told of what was said to the inquiry and out of their own mouths the witnesses condemn themselves. It lasts some two and a half hours and is powerful, shaming and devastating to listen to.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick: Thomas Wheatley.
Richard Mallett QC: Ron Cook.
Kate Grange QC: Sally Giles.
Witnesses and Barristers
Barbara Lane: Polly Kemp.
Luke Bisby: David Michaels.
David Badillo: Daniel Betts.
Sarah Russell: Claire Lams.
Stephanie Barwise QC: Claire Lams.
Bruce Souness: Tim Lewis.
Simon Lawrence: Phill Langhorne.
Leslie Thomas QC: Derek Elroy.
Ray Bailey: David Robb.
Ben Bailey: Sam Buchanan.
John Hoban: Howard Ward.
David Gibson: Daniel Betts.
Claire Williams: Polly Kemp.
Peter Maddison: David Micaels.
Michael Mansfield QC: David Robb.

Director: Nicolas Kent.
Inquiry Room recreated by Miki Jabikowska & Matt Eagland.
Video Design: Jack Fone.
Lighting Design: Matt Eagland.
Sound Design: sndy Graha.
Costume Design: Carly Brownbridge.
Production photographs. Tristram Kenton.

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