Last week I opened my column with a quote from Hamlet.
Visited by a group of traveling players and determined to reveal his uncle’s guilt by murdering his father, Hamlet instructs them to play out a scene that reconstructs the murder, to force a reaction from his uncle.
Theater, according to Hamlet, has the power “to hold, as’ two, mirrored up to nature” – to reflect the world and thereby make us see what else we may miss – or choose to hide or ignore.
Last week, this quote spearheaded the visual arts and the role that mirrors have played for artists over time.
But this week I’m back in the theater looking forward to two shows that do exactly as Hamlet suggested – forcing us to see unpleasant truths in the world around us.
The first, Grenfell: Value Engineering, is a verbatim reconstruction of the Grenfell Tower study that is based solely on the words of those involved and brings some of the dramatic evidence to the stage that has been presented over the last four years of the study.
The show will play at Tabernacle in Notting Hill Gate from October 13 to November 13 and has been created by editor Richard Norton-Taylor and director Nicholas Kent — the creative team behind The color of justice (the dramatization of Stephen Lawrence Inquiry) at the National Theater, in the West End and on BBC TV, and Olivier Award-winning Saville Inquiry plays Bloody Sunday.
In his description of the new show, Kent wrote: “It is impossible to fully understand the pain and suffering in the Grenfell community and the injustice they have suffered and continue to suffer from the unnecessary and tragic fire of June 2017.
“The intent behind the play is to help the public get an overview of the work of the investigation and to hold those people and systems responsible for the tragedy to account.”
Meanwhile, they confront reality in a different way, a script-in-hand production by Lucy Kirkwoods Maryland plays at the Royal Court Theater from 7.-16. October.
Subject to the theater as a direct response to the recent murders in south London by Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, Kirkwood said: “This play was for many years a private conversation with myself.
“The horrific murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa this year have galvanized me to make it public.
I hesitate to even call it a play when it’s simply a howl, a way of expressing what I feel about a culture of violence against women, but I share it because I wonder if it might express a bit of what others people feel about it too. ”
Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theater Vicky Featherstone said “Sometimes you do not know what you need until it comes like a bolt from the blue and things are turned upside down.
“That’s what happened to us at the Royal Court when Lucy Kirkwood was playing Maryland arrived in our inbox Friday night. ”
Whether it’s a verbatim reconstruction of events or a personal artistic response, a documentary or a rallying cry, these two productions show how much theater can really force us to see and confront all that is wrong in society in the very best way. .