Gillian Slovo’s powerful new play begins with the cast reassuring us that no images or sounds of fire will be displayed. But while thin on visual props – it doesn’t even have a stage – the performance is driven by a formidable 12-strong cast, each playing a surviving resident. A verbatim play, the whole dialogue is based on interviews with survivors, interspersed throughout with re-enactments of the ongoing inquiry.
The first act covers the buildup to the fire, with residents warning that the cladding material was vulnerable to ignition even from cigarette ash, complaining to a management company that seemed uninterested in doing anything to improve the lives of the residents. The second act is a heartbreaking retelling of what happened on the night of the fire. Perhaps the most shocking element of the play is the way the residents were routinely spoken to by the local authority and the management company; not just when they were warning about the shortfalls in the building management, but even as smoke filled their corridors and the flames ran up the building with terrifying speed.
Photograph Maya Jeffers