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Page last updated at 06:39 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 07:39 UK
Play depicts Stockwell tube tragedy

By Danny Shaw
BBC Home Affairs Correspondent

Scene from Stockwell play
The play is based on transcripts from the Stockwell inquest

It is not a play for the faint-hearted. Stockwell, the Inquest into the Death of Jean Charles de Menezes, is a clinical account of the events of 22 July 2005, when a combination of police operational failings and misjudgements led to the death of an innocent young Brazilian.

Police were hunting four men who had tried to plant bombs on underground trains and a bus the day before in an attempt to replicate the 7/7 bombings.

The bombs had failed to detonate, but police were concerned the men had more explosives and would try again or blow themselves up.

Police trailed a man they thought was Hussain Osman - one of the bombers - and followed him onto a train at Stockwell station.

Police marksmen fired nine shots. The man died instantly.

It turned out that the man was not Osman and had no connection with terrorism.

He was Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician, who happened to live in Osman's block of flats and vaguely resembled him.

'Chaos and fear'

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The play - devised by Kieron Barry - is based on transcripts of last year's inquest into Jean Charles's death.

But Sophie Lifschutz, who directed the play, says her aim is not to recreate the inquest itself.

"What we're really trying to do is recreate moment by moment what happened on that day in the 33 minutes from him leaving the house to the moment when he was killed."

Lifschutz says she's tried to take a "thoughtful, balanced and measured" approach and wants the audience to come to their own conclusions about what happened.

"We're trying to give an impression of the chaos and the fear, as well as the decisions that were made."

Brian Paddick, former Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, who gave evidence at the inquest, watched the play in rehearsals and says it is "reasonably balanced".

"It tries to give all sides of the argument, it tries to get people to understand the confusion that there was. It tries to give an understanding of the pressure that the officers were under."

Presenting the facts

Scene from Stockwell play
Stockwell is the second collaboration between creator Kieron Brady and director Sophie Lifschutz

Many of the most memorable moments in the production belong to Jack Klaff, whose portrayal of the silver-haired QC, Michael Mansfield, is uncannily accurate.

Mansfield, who represented the de Menezes family at the inquest, is reknowned for his forensic, incisive - and sometimes sarcastic - cross-examination of witnesses.

"I know Michael Mansfield very well - and there's only one Michael Mansfield," chuckles Brian Paddick. "But - good bit of acting!"

Last December, the inquest jury rejected the option of a "lawful killing" verdict, returning an "open" verdict instead, and dismissed claims from police marksmen that they shouted a warning before opening fire.

Nevertheless, Sophie Lifschutz says she has suspended her own judgment and hopes the production will speak for itself.

"It's important to show an element of restraint and lightness of touch, so that the story comes out and that the words resonate," she says.

"I want the audience to be challenged by it and gripped by it... and I want them to be able to have the facts to make up their own minds."

The play is at the Landor Theatre, Landor Road, London SW9, 21 July - 8 August at 7.30pm.




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