This Much is True @ Theatre 503, London

cast list
Amber Agar, Emilio Aquino, Alice Da Cunha, Gerald Kyd, Beatriz Romilly, Justine Waddell

directed by
Tim Roseman

Brazilian national Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead at Stockwell tube station nearly four and a half years ago. Since then the events surrounding his unlawful killing have been explored and documented in various ways, resulting in a film, a TV drama, two songs and a documentary play all combining to highlight the Metropolitan Police’s catalogue of errors.

The latest theatrical production, following Keiron Barry’s verbatim play Stockwell which was staged earlier this year at the Landor before transferring to the Tricycle, is This Much is True, co-written by Sarah Beck and Casualty and Holby City co-creator Paul Unwin.

On 22nd July 2005 Jean Charles left his home in Tulse Hill, London, and travelled to Stockwell Tube station where he was shot seven times by undercover police officers who misidentified him as a suicide bomber about to explode a device on the London underground. The officers were in fact looking for four men whom they believe to be responsible for the failed bombings a day before. All four of these men were described as Somali, Eritrean, or Ethiopian in appearance – de Menezes was Brazilian.

Unwin and Beck’s script uses a number of different techniques to tell its story and focuses not just on the blunders of the police but also on the direct effect the killing had on the community and on Jean Charles’ family. It approaches the event from numerous perspectives, ranging from the Michael Mansfield, the lawyer representing the family during the inquest, to Brian Paddick, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the time of the shooting, and Yasmin Khan, a principle member of the campaign group Justice4Jean.

The use of so many viewpoints enables the audience to gain a panoramic perspective on the incident and the play explores the pain and anguish felt by his family in a way that Barry’s Stockwell did not. We see de Menezes’ cousin Vivian (brilliantly played by Beatriz Romilly) crying when being told of his death and a harrowing scene in which his friend, Alex, has to view his body.

Tim Roseman’s production uses only six cast members to play a multitude of roles but the transitions between characters are seamless and the production as a whole is wonderfully fluid; the audience are never confused or left wondering whom they are watching.

While there are no weak links in this skillfully and impressively acted ensemble piece, Justine Waddell and Beatriz Romilly give the stand out performances. Waddell plays a whole host of characters including the lawyer Michael Mansfield, Canadian Lana Vandenberghe and the solicitor Harriet Wistrich, and, with each new role she remains both convincing and engaging. Spanish born actress Romilly also stands out, partly due to her believably as a Brazilian national but also because of the conviction she brings to the role of Vivian.

It is unlikely that this will be the last production to examine the emotive and tragic circumstances of Jean Charles de Menezes’ death – it’s an event that needs to be remembered and returned to – however its original manner of staging, Beck and Unwin’s thought-provoking script and a memorable final scene make this one of the most potent and insightul explorations of the subject to date.

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