Let’s take a closer look at what is being said about the Playground Theatre’s production based on the Grenfell enquiry.

(c)Beresford Hodge

WhatsOnStage: **** “This is theatre that is relevant, moving, and forensically devastating. We can only pray that the lessons of the continuing inquiry have a similar impact.”

The Arts Desk: **** “The Grenfell Tower Inquiry into how the tragedy occurred – why it was allowed to occur by hundreds of people – concluded in November 2022, with enough material that Richard Norton-Taylor and Nicolas Kent have been able to construct another devastating verbatim play. Where Grenfell: Value Engineering (2021) left us speechless, System Failure makes us rage.”

London Theatre 1: “This is an unusual piece of theatre for many reasons. There are questions to be asked about making theatre before the inquiry has published its final findings, but this piece does the crucial job of keeping Grenfell in the current political landscape.”

The Telegraph: **** “This verbatim recreation of the inquiry into the Grenfell disaster has a political pertinence that transcends the realm of entertainment.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “Norton-Taylor and Kent make their tough case against the system but show admirable restraint in not painting these people as callous or malicious. In this affecting and sobering piece of theatre, they lay bare the awful facts that prove the infrastructure that is supposed to protect us is simply not fit for purpose. The last words go to Choucair, whose closing statement simply and elegantly reminds us once more of the scale of this tragedy, and the immediate need for full systemic change.”

Hamhigh.co.uk: **** 1/2 “As well as sparking anger and spotlighting responsibility, the Grenfell plays are quietly devastating pleas for justice, as incompetence, costcutting, deregulation and profiteering had fatal consequences for a marginalised community in one of London’s richest boroughs.”

Northwestend.com: “There is so much real emotion here that I’d challenge anyone not to move through a full kaleidoscope of feelings. There’s so much to be sad about, and so many reasons to be angry, but there are also so many pockets of love; examples of how the community came together to hold each other, of people helping and of bravery beyond words. It’s truly, truly moving and while I once again sat and cried in my car in west London, it was over a maelstrom of fury and hope and admiration. Not an easy watch but a rewarding one – kudos to writers, cast and crew for tackling such an important story in a powerful but sensitive way.”

Broadway World: ***** “Wisely addressing (to some extent) the imbalance of voices in the first play, the first and last testimony we hear is from Hisam Chocair (Shahzad Ali), who lost members of his family in the blaze – he confirms the appalling treatment of victims in the immediate aftermath. If the first play’s unifying theme was the cost-cutting that led to the disaster, this second play, as its title suggests, focuses more on how bureaucracies charged with protecting people chose instead to punish them – Mr Choucair is a representative voice of so many, dead and living.”

The Stage: **** “Understated and affecting interrogation of the causes of the 2017 fire.”

The Guardian: **** “The play text’s afterword quotes Millett’s excoriating closing speech about the pervasive buck-passing: “the merry-go-round turns still”. Norton-Taylor and Kent choose to let audiences draw their own conclusions, so don’t stage this speech. Theirs is an almost anti-theatrical theatre. Its setting is bland wood and grey flooring, its language is sober. Rare striking phrases resound: a barrister declaring that lives “cannot be sacrificed at the altar of austerity” or a fire chief lamenting “an article of public shame”.”

Grenfell: System Failure will also play at the The Tabernacle (27th February-12th March) and the Marylebone Theatre (14th March-26th March)


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