Good theatre shines a light on the divisions of society, great theatre transcends them. Welcome to The Jungle, a provocative, inspirational story of hope, transformation and resilience.
Following a sold out run at The Young Vic, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s acclaimed theatrical drama finds a new home in the heart of London’s West End. The Playhouse has been radically remodelled by designer Miriam Buether to create the densely inhabited Calais encampment that was the centre of the international migrant crisis of 2015. The auditorium has been completely transformed into the vibrant iconography of the Afghan café, offering a truly immersive theatrical experience. Giving the illusion of close proximity to the British Coast, the dress circle is reimagined as the Cliffs of Dover, with unique and intimate views over the camp below.
Directors Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin admirably create the manic energy of over 8,000 migrants; a true lieu de vie that’s constantly seething with activity. Its substantial cast of characters weave frenetically in and out of the makeshift tables, engaging with the audience, fighting, laughing, dancing and telling their stories over sweet milky chai and freshly baked naan. Boasting an exceptional ensemble, the company is made up from actors and migrants from around the world, producing a superbly acted portrait of so many slow, hopeful journeys in search of a better, safer life.
The Jungle is at times harrowing, disorientating and uncomfortable – not the type of theatre audiences want to see, but the type of theatre audiences should see. The Jungle seen in the play may now be gone – it was destroyed by police in October 2016 – but with the image of toddler Alan Kurdi’s drowned corpse forever haunting the memory, the rise of fake news and Trump’s recent chain link cages full of unaccompanied children, the challenge of migration and asylum remain two hugely significant plights.
A politically potent play that has the power to surpass conflict, break down walls and forge integration. A groundbreakingly significant theatrical event.
The Jungle plays at The Playhouse Theatre until Saturday 3rd November.
Images: Marc Brenner