Review: DICTATING TO THE ESTATE, Maxilla Social Club

A furious evisceration of the organisational and individual complacency that led to the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire

By: Jun. 03, 2022
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Review: DICTATING TO THE ESTATE, Maxilla Social Club Review: DICTATING TO THE ESTATE, Maxilla Social Club Beneath The Westway, in the wonderfully evocative Maxilla Social Club, so old school it does not have a website, we sit in the shadow of Grenfell Tower, literally and metaphorically, its presence looming large in every sense.

Nathaniel McBride's play draws on some of the same source material that last Autumn's coruscating Value Engineering Scenes From The Grenfell Inquiry (reviewed here) used, but in tone and intention, it is quite different. Where Richard Norton-Taylor and Nicholas Kent opted to let the cold formality of legalistic discourse annihilate the oceanic arrogance of the authorities and contractors, McBride is more obviously angry, more interested in how the residents were silenced, shooed away like yapping dogs - dictating to the estate indeed.

It doesn't always work. Tamara Camacho, Lucy Ellinson, Jon Foster, Nathan Ives-Moiba and Avi Shah play 48 characters with directors, Lisa Goldman and Natasha Langridge, asking them to crank up the superciliousness, the sanctimoniousness, the self-regard. I'm not sure that emphasis was required - the words (drawn from a variety of documents) are damning enough.

At over 90 minutes all-through, the sheer range of individuals and abbreviations can be dizzying too, though one soon spots what the letters TMO mean and that Tenants, Management and Organisation played little part in that sorry bureaucracy.

What emerges is a collage of neglect and negligence, an appalling decades long failure of regulation, democracy and human decency that is still unresolved to this day. If the drama is not as focused as it might be, if the characters are drawn too swiftly, it doesn't really matter. This play is part of an ongoing and multi-faceted campaign to give voice to the victims, to bring the perpetrators to some kind of justice and to prevent anything like this happening again. Remember that when politicians emerge from behind their security details and gated homes to tell you that regulation is strangling enterprise and hobbling the desire to Build Back Better. Sure it is.

Dictating To The Estate is at the Maxilla Social Club until 12 June

Photo Kevin Percival


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