The Jungle, Playhouse London, 5*****: William Russell



by Joe Murphy & Justin Martin


The Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5DE to 3 November 2018.

Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.

Run 2h3 45mins One interval.


Review: William Russell 6 June.

A story of despair, survival and hope

After a sell out run at the Young Vic this moving account of life in the camp at Sangatte, known as the Jungle, has arrived in the once plush surroundings of the Playhouse which has been transformed by Miriam Buether into a celebrated feature of the camp, its Afghan restaurant. The stalls have become the camp, the circle remains as the cliffs of Dover from which people watch from a distance.

In the stalls the audience sit at benches around a walkway of tables on which the inmates perform a play about life there, starting with a death and going back to the beginning as the camp, a city in miniature by the end, was opened.

Directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin it is an unforgettable evening which the theatre achieves something the best documentary could never do – it takes you into the heart of camp life and at the same time reveals the failure of the politicians faced with the surge of migrants to solve things. The camp has closed, the surge is over, new arrangements are in force although it has to be said there are still people seeking to come to Britain living rough round Calais.

The result is immersive theatre at its best. The audience round that makeshift catwalk endure the hard benches, flinch as the actors hurtle past fighting, running, demonstrating and telling their stories of hardship and endurance. At times it is all to close for comfort. But that fourth wall has been breached brilliantly. The fine cast led by Ammar Haj Ahmad as Safim who narrates the events, play perfectly. Naming names is invidious really but John Pfumojena as Okot, who has fled from Darfur, Mohammad Amiri as Norullah, the camp joker and wild boy, and Jonathan Nyati as Mohammed, the owner of the café do deserve a mention. As the Brits there to do good there are lovely performances from Rachel Redford as Beth, a girl out of her depth, Dominic Rowan as the idealistic Derek, and Alex Lawler as Sam, the teenager who plans the new town. Just what they are up to, however, remains one of those things one can never work out – doing good while doing it wrong perhaps.

It is hard going but rewarding, a genuinely memorable experience as theatre and as life one which nobody would wish to share. But proof of the human ability to survive somehow, to make the best of what there is.

Mahmoud: Tiran Aakel.

Norullah: Mohammed Amiri.

Henri: Alexander Devrient.

Maz: Elham Ehsas.

Boxer: Trevor Fox.

Omid: Moein Ghobsheh.

Safi: Ammar Hajahmad.

Tarek: Cherno Jagne.

Angela: Miki Kendrick.

Sam: Alex Lawler.

Paula: Jo McInnes.

Rachel: Sara Mokonen.

Hamo: Yasmin Moradi.

Mohammed: Jonathan Nyati.

Okot: John Pfumojena.

Beth: Rachel Redford.

Derek: Dominic Rowan.

Ali: Tachid Sabitri.

Omar: Mohammed Sarrar.

Yasin: Eric Sirakian.

Salar: Ben Turner.

Helene: Nahel Tzegal

Little Amal: Alliya Ali/Lara Alpay/Alyssa de Souza/Erin Rushidi.

Director: Stephen Daldry & Justin Martin,

Set: Miriam Buether.

Costumes: Catherine Kodicek.

Lighting: Jon Clarke.

Sound: Paul Arditti.

Musical Direction: John Pfumojena.

Video: Duncan Maclean & Tristan Shepherd.

Fights: Terry King.

Dialects: Zabarjad Salam.

Voice: Jeanette Nelson.

Photographs: Marc Brenner.


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