Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s The Jungle stunned its audiences during its Young Vic run. Now, it’s literally taken over the Playhouse Theatre to share a moving, humbling and harrowing account of the famed Calais refugee camp. With themes of humanity, togetherness and hope juxtaposed with the crushing reality of the lives lived by refugees, the distinctly unique and beautiful piece of theatre is essential watching for a contemporary audience. And here are five reasons you need to book a ticket right now.
Unlike the Young Vic, the Playhouse Theatre isn’t the most flexible space. At least, that’s how it seemed before Miriam Buether got her hands on it. Ridding the traditional theatre of its stall seating and proscenium arch stage gave way for an impeccable recreation of The Jungle’s famed Afghan restaurant run by Salar (Ben Turner). Complete with muddy floors, MDF walls, a “kitchen” where the actors produce plates of bread and boxes of food, a tented ceiling, and cushions for those sitting cross-legged, the semi-immersive space brings you right into the action. And the way they use the set is phenomenal. From a dancing parade on the table to pop-up tents, a literal platform to show the pent-up energy of the younger people in the camp to the theatre-shaking demolition trucks, you feel everything, even the claustrophobia and fear at times. It’s truly remarkable to see such a familiar space transformed in such a radical way.
Most of the performers are on stage in some way or other throughout the show. From the moment you walk in, they approach you with their eager eyes offering you chai tea or running around shouting at each other with passion and frustration. The narrative is led by the soft-spoken, gentle and eloquent Safi (Ammar Haj Ahmad) who breaks the “fourth wall” to guide you through time, external events and the perils of the citizens of The Jungle. Ammar’s performance is fragile, warm and engaging offering a calm that allows you to absorb the poignancy of the scenes you’ve just or will witness. In addition to Ammar, Ben’s Salar is electric, commanding attention every time he steps onto the “stage”. And the performances given by Mohammad Amiri, John Pfumojena and Rachel Redford showed the delicate balance between both the people of The Jungle and the volunteers.
The cast also features refugees from Iran and Sudan as well as actors from around the world including Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Eritrea, England, Zimbabwe, Syria, Armenia, Congo, Wales, Scotland, The Gambia, Morocco, Lebanon and Germany.
Though The Jungle is fiction, it’s based on writings carried out in the Jungle. Though details may differ and experiences merged, the accounts of escaping war-torn countries or towns threatened by genocide are all too real. They demand you drop any apathy or disinterest previously experienced. The stories – told in a variety of ways, some with tears and blood, some with laughs and role play – humanise each account and situation. We even see the realities of “success” stories. It truly is eye-opening and moving.
Using traditional instruments, original compositions and even the beating of human fists on a table, the rhythm and music of The Jungle bring life and authenticity to the already all-encompassing show.
Because you have to
This isn’t about seeing it because you should see it. It really will have a profound effect on how you view many world issues. It’s a comprehensive and approachable story with a powerful message and centre, laced with joy and laughter. It gives a voice to those 10,000 people who lived and suffered in the Calais Jungle that didn’t have one before.
To book your tickets to The Jungle, click here.