The intimate performance space of ‘The Hope Theatre’ gave The Company Theatre Group an apt ambiance for ‘The Grenfell Project’, in which they drew their audience in with their respectful, honest and intense devised piece. The hour-long performance was directed by Eleanor Crouch and takes the audience through first hand testimonials of the fire that broke out on the 14th of June 2017, enflaming a 24-storey block of flats in North Kensington causing 72 deaths.
‘The Grenfell Project’ begins with seven cast members on stage who shared with us what happened, the aftermath of the fire and how it affected people’s lives; based largely on interviews from victims, firefighters, the community and government officials. While the performance was fast paced, there was a steady flow to the performance which must have been difficult with the amount of content. What followed was an honest account of testimonials about The Grenfell Tower and the aftermath of the fire with strong, independent, outspoken characters. The cast is on stage one hundred percent of the time and communicates directly with the audience.
“I would describe this piece as eye-opening and respectful…”
The piece asked many tough questions and reminded the audience of the outrage that The Grenfell Tower caused through rap, movement, video testimonial and song. I found the movement piece and song both quite breath-taking. There was a lighting section which vividly described the losing battle many survivors felt that they faced. One testimonial described how they put towels over their children’s heads and tried to normalise what was happening, hoping that if they were not saved, the smoke would kill them before the fire. They tried to represent the impending panic of the victims and firefighters.
The aftermath section included a confrontation of the government by survivors and their families. Moments of the performance pointed at a divide in class in different areas in London and ultimately, the audience was asked questions such as “Do the government care about the less well off?”, “Why was prevention not more important than a cure?” and lastly to the question “Is this problem being fixed?”, The answer was a resounding ‘No’ with five hundred buildings in London still made from the cladding material that the Grenfell Tower was made up of, a cheaper option for housing that was described ‘as flammable as cardboard’.
I would describe this piece as eye-opening and respectful, performed with a simple set and multiple forms of storytelling. It is an important reminder that there was not enough done, no arrests were made in the aftermath of the fire and that 20 months after the fire some of the survivors continue to wait for housing.
I would recommend this play to anyone that wants to watch an important, informative piece of theatre. If you are a creative or theatre-goer that believes that theatre and storytelling can be a massive vehicle for change, I would urge you to see this show as ‘The Company’ Theatre Group have tried to make a difference through their devised play.
The Grenfell Project is running until the 30th of March at ‘The Hope Theatre’ in Islington, London.
Tickets are available here: thehopetheatre.com
Twitter: @TheHopeTheatre Facebook: thehopetheatre
Reviewed by Ciara Kelleher
Ciara is an Irish actress, writer and presenter. She completed a BA in International Business in Ireland before moving to London to pursue acting. She has previously published an article with Concern and lived in Luxembourg and South Carolina. She completed the Advanced Intensive Acting Diploma at the Giles Foreman Centre for Acting and has taken on roles such as Queen Margaret, Hazel in ‘Mourning Becomes Electra’ and Cassandra in ‘Women of Troy’ and has written for Radio HaHa!