The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre
The Jungle is writers Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s attempt to make sense of their time in the infamous Calais refugee camp, a situation fraught with nuance and confusion. Continuing in the current trend for immersive theatre, upon entering the Playhouse the production transports the audience into the camp, where food is cooking, people are shouting and leaflets and clothing are being handed out. Confusion reigns in this performance, but for this play such an immersive experience feels entirely necessary.
The architecture of the stage means the spectators are surrounded by the cast and rarely able to retain focus on any particular person as the script bounces between the large ensemble. This, combined with the effective use of loud noises, flashing lights and the large number of languages being spoken, highlights the chaotic circumstances of the Calais Jungle. Seasoned director Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin do a brilliant job of conveying the intensity and stress such a complicated international crisis creates for those within it.
Brilliant performances from all the cast, including rising star Alex Lawther, the powerfully present Ammar Haj Ahmad and John Pfumojena, portray the varying experiences of those within the Jungle. A truly intriguing element of the play is the role of the British volunteers; the piece explores the complications of their existence as both white saviour and compassionate stranger and begs the question of what we can do to truly help in a crisis we have helped create. This play highlights the complexity of human experience, touching on topical themes of nationalism, identity, belonging, choice and cultural differences. It gives us no clear answers but undeniably makes us think.
We follow the cast from end, to beginning, to end again, guided by the wryly knowing Safi (Ammar Haj Ahmad). Through an experiment with time and voice, we are guided by events outside the camp, including the death of Alan Kurdi and the Paris attacks. All this roots The Jungle in reality, lest we forget we are witnessing the real experience of others. This culminates in an incredibly emotive speech performed elegantly by Ahmad, which leaves barely a dry eye in the house.
A play with a message, The Jungle reveals the humanity behind the headlines. Its political outrage clear and obvious, the play effectively demonstrates the challenges we face coming together in a globalised world, but also the value that we can generate when we succeed.
Photo: Marc Brenner
The Jungle is at the Playhouse Theatre from 16th June until 3rd November 2018. Book your tickets here.