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A CurtainUp London Review
The script is an edited version of the words actually said at the inquest but actor Helen Worsley gives an introduction, explaining the impact of 7th July on Londoners and their normal mode of travel. She later goes on to play Commander Cressida Dick, the most senior police officer in charge on the day of the shooting. The participants in the inquest take their seats behind her. Each actor will take several roles besides their main part. Helen Worsley will also play one of the victim's cousins. Kevin Quarmby is Sir Michael Wright the Coroner in charge of the proceedings, as well as some of the lawyers, counsel representing various interests. Jack Klaff is the celebrated Queen's Council Michael Mansfield, representing the de Menezes family, who has featured in four plays at the Tricycle, such is his high profile advocacy of those who are victims of government ineptitude and worse.
This inquest pieces together the events leading up to the shooting of the Brazilian. The terrible coincidences which led to his death are detailed, that he came out of the entrance to a block of nine flats, only one of which had been occupied by one of the failed bombers of 21st July, that he resembled this suspect Osman Hussain, that the photographic identification supplied to the police was of poor photo copied quality, that he got off the bus at Brixton Tube only to get back on it was deemed suspicious, except that Brixton Tube Station was closed that morning on a security alert. The police failed to stop him before he entered the tube at Stockwell and once there in the underground they had lost communication with the operation staff.
Stockwell recognises that once the police and Special Firearms Officers were on the tube train with a man with a rucksack that they thought had been positively identified as Osman Hussain and that they had been told to stop him, thinking he might be about to detonate a bomb, they shot him in the head. The coroner only allowed the jury one of two verdicts. He ruled out unlawful killing, allowing them only the possible verdicts of an open verdict or lawful killing.
Director Sophie Lifschutz has dramatised the play with shifts of lighting and music as different witnesses take the stand, lifting what could have been difficult viewing of solid evidence into a fascinating piece of theatre. The set is plain, just chairs on a bare stage. The performances are polished and impressive, whether it's Jack Klaff's intelligent barrister with his slightly crouched stance and wild white hair, whose penetrating questioning unravels any attempt by the witnesses to cover up the truth, Helen Worsley's stockily correct career senior policewoman or Kevin Quarmby's thoughtful and meticulously attentive judge.
What is special about the play Stockwell is that it shows how this tragedy happened rather than merely allocating simple blame to caricature trigger happy policemen. One of the men who had shot de Menezes cried openly at the inquest. It analyses and comments making suggestions for future operations to improve public safety whilst never losing sight of the drama, the events of which will continue to whirr away in the minds of the audience. This play has all the facts of a documentary but never forgets it is also theatre.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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