Nearly two years on, and the tragedy of Grenfell seems to be just something else that has slowly but surely faded from the forefront of public conversation. For those of us without direct involvement, it may feel all too easy to allow the events of June 14 2017 to slip from our minds.
But The Grenfell Project isn’t letting us forget. And rightly so.
Based around interviews conducted with victims, firefighters, council workers and MPs, seven passionate performers hash out the injustice of what happened to the community of Grenfell. Through a combination of verbatim material, spoken word, movement, and song, the audience is brought into an intimate world in which the pain and anger is tangible; an atmosphere which the tiny black box space of the Hope Theatre only serves to enhance.
This space is used to particularly good effect to depict a meeting between Grenfell community members and Kensington council leader Elizabeth Campbell, who stepped into the role after previous leader Nicholas Paget-Brown resigned due to accusations of an awful response from the council. This scene breaks down any barriers between audience and performers, painfully weaving us into their anger that warnings about the safety of Grenfell were ignored year after year. It’s as if I’m there in the meeting too, feeling so riled up that I want to get up and shout with them.
The set is punctuated by a somber but beautiful painting done by bereaved family member Damel Carayol; a depiction of the singed tower that reads “eyesore – the final straw” at the bottom. On the other end of the stage there is a moveable piece of scaffolding which is deftly used for projections and dedications; and holds a whiteboard upon which audience members are invited to write at the end. The rest of the space is appropriately stark and bare.
Two stand-out performers are Jamahyl Chan-Ellis and Eleanor Crouch, who also directs. Chan-Ellis’ rendition of the Azan (Islamic call to prayer) in tribute to a Muslim woman he met in the aftermath of the event is haunting and beautiful. Crouch embodies different characters with great strength and, at the end of the piece, recounts the words of a woman grieving for her husband with heartbreaking truth.
Afterwards, a collection pot is put out for donations to The Grenfell Foundation and The Firefighter’s Charity. Nobody hesitates in rummaging for change. Audience are also welcomed to chat with cast members about the show, and I talk to performer Esther Asabi, who tells me she believes that art can change the world. If we continue to provide the space for powerful, truthful theatre like this, I’m inclined to agree with her.
72 dead and still no arrests. How come?
The Grenfell Project is playing at the Hope Theatre until 30 March. For more information and tickets, see the Hope Theatre website.