Theatre Review: Stockwell @ Tricycle

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 176 months ago

Last Updated 11 September 2009

Theatre Review: Stockwell @ Tricycle


Today, eight years after four planes did things that planes should never do, it seems appropriate to be talking about an event that happened on our own doorsteps as a direct consequence of those "extraordinary" circumstances.

We say "extraordinary" because that's a word that kept cropping up in the inquest to investigate the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on 22 July 2005, the day after the second, failed, attack on the tube. Kieron Barry and Sophie Lifschutz, the writing / directing team behind Deep Cut, have taken the transcripts from that inquest and reproduced what happened that day, in all its shocking detail. This play is not a fiction. This play is a fact.

You'll probably remember bits of what happened at Stockwell tube station: the codenames of the police, 'Ivor', 'Ken'; problems with the radios; a surveillance officer taking a wazz at a crucial moment; the CO19 firearms officer breaking down on the stand. But when you hear about these things over weeks, months, even years, in the background while you're making your dinner, it tends to lose its impact. But watching it all pieced together over 90 minutes is astonishing, appalling, mind boggling, grim.

Obviously the play is comprised of selected material but we felt it was still fair and balanced. You're torn between sympathising and being horrified as you hear the difficulties faced by officers on the ground and the grisly details of the bullets being fired. We want our police to be "the good guys" (as one witness describes them) but Stockwell hammers home how nothing is ever black and white. Should the inquest have delivered an open verdict? We don't know.

We've also got to acknowledge the exceptional staging and performances. Eight actors represent about 30 people, often speaking lines originally from a group. So all the lawyers' and coroners' words are compressed into a couple of characters, and the large teams of officers are shared between the remaining cast, with actors switching personalities throughout. It's testament to the performers' skills and the staging that you always know who is talking, or at least which group they belong to, and we have to give massive kudos to Brendan Foster, Will Irvine and Helen Worsley for so completely inhabiting their different parts. Worsley also gives a brassy and defiant sheen to (then Commander, now Assistant Commissioner) Cressida Dick, who headed the Met operation. Jack Klaff is also fabulous as a quacking QC, playing to the gallery with disbelief and sarcasm dripping from his voice.

We cannot recommend Stockwell highly enough. Engaging, absorbing and shocking, we were so wrapped up in thoughts of how someone could just get on a tube train one day and not come home again, that we got on the Jubilee line in the wrong direction. If anyone had been watching, if we had been experiencing "extraordinary" times, would our behaviour have been deemed as "suspicious" as the police deemed Jean Charles de Menezes? This play is a startling reminder of how little human frailty could stand between you and eight bullets in your head.

Stockwell is on at the Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road NW6, until 20th September, tickets £12 / £10. On Wednesday there will be a special post-show Q&A with Michael Mansfield QC, who represented the de Menezes family at the inquest. For more information see the Tricycle Theatre website.

Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.