‘The Jungle’ review – a raw and important tale of community at the heart of the refugee crisis

Incredibly immersive and delivered by a phenomenal cast, The Jungle gets to the heart of the refugee crisis in an emotional tale of hope, community and companionship.

In the UK, the Calais Jungle and the refugee crisis have only been observed from afar. Media coverage shines a light on the issue, but there is still a degree of separation – a barrier instantly broken down in Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s latest production.

With singing and dancing too, this West End production is a brilliant piece of theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner.

If you’re lucky enough to get stall seats, then you find yourself in Miriam Buether’s ‘Afghan Cafe’, the stalls section which is very much part of the stage. Actors hand out leaflets about “another proposed eviction of the Jungle”, naans and drinks to audience members as they enter. Cultural music plays. The fourth wall is instantly broken, and you are immediately immersed in the environment.

It’s the sense of community which really shines through over the two hours and forty minutes, as cast members bounce off each other’s performances seamlessly and with ease.

So much so that there is not one overall stand-out actor. Ammar Haj Ahmad (who plays the main protagonist, Safi) delivers mesmerising monologues in an embracing and welcoming tone, whilst Ben Turner charms as the dedicated restaurant owner, Salah. Black Mirror star Alex Lawther is impressive as a British aid worker, and Trevor Fox offers some brilliant comic relief as Boxer.

Although fictional, Murphy and Robertson’s script does a phenomenal job of exploring the Calais Jungle with pure honesty. Okot (John Pfumojena)’s monologue about his attempt to make it to the UK is one of the most heartbreaking and moving parts of the play. Important points about the crisis are bluntly communicated throughout – as much as the play draws you in, it also leaves you with questions to ask once you’ve left your seat.

As such, The Jungle stands as both an excellent and important work of theatre and as one of the most important plays to see this year. Thought-provoking, moving and incredibly immersive, this must-see production is exactly what theatre should be.

Rating: 5/5

The Jungle is now playing at The Playhouse Theatre in London from now until the 3 November.

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‘Consent’ review – Nina Raine’s thought-provoking elaborate production raises many questions in a tense blend of love and justice

In a detailed exploration of love, justice and the law, Consent raises a lot of questions for the audience to ponder – both curious and confusing ones.

One would think that such confusion would come from the technicalities of the play being one of a legal nature, but Raine’s research shines confidently throughout in the writing. Instead, in a production which explores the many relationships of the characters on stage, what starts as a straightforward tale expands into something far more complex and puzzling.

From left: Adam James, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lee Ingleby, Clare Foster and Claudie Blakley. Credit: Johan Persson

Thankfully, this doesn’t stop Raine from raising some interesting points in the dialogue of her characters. The History Boys’ Stephen Campbell Moore and The A Word‘s Lee Ingleby are amongst the cast who deliver powerful performances and showcase excellent character development. The atmosphere’s tense, and the individuals three-dimensional – often expressing contrasting opinions throughout, which is particularly interesting to see.

Mix the topic of the play and the characters with a classical score and limited set design, and things start to feel a little more intense. Yet such a tone and pace for a play which explores many ideas does lead to some points being lost. It’s upon re-reading the play text that you begin to see some of the foreshadowing and wider, underlying discussions.

An impressive cast and excellent dialogue feature in Consent, but as the plot develops, some of the production’s underlying points get lost along the way.

Rating: 3.5/5

‘Quiz’ review – James Graham’s ‘coughing major’ play explores justice in a post-truth era

James Graham’s latest play Quiz is one of binary oppositions. At its heart, audience members tackle the question of whether ‘coughing major’ Charles Ingram was guilty or not guilty of cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, whilst also exploring truth versus falsehood, and showbiz versus justice.

Photo: Johan Persson.

No doubt a political playwright, Graham says the “curious overlapping of light entertainment with criminal justice” in the Ingram case became a “prominent theme” whilst working on the play. Yet this particular point feels lost in amongst the nostalgic, exaggerated and slightly excessive quiz presenter impressions by Keir Charles (although this portrayal was most likely deliberate), the brief media circus scenes, gimmicks in the court case and the audience pub quiz. Although a treat for hardcore gameshow fans, the connection is a weak one.

Perhaps the strongest point suggested by Graham is one around post-truth – a political concept surging in importance in a time of Trump and Brexit. As both acts explore different narratives in the trial before asking the audience to vote, confirmation bias and manipulation are thrust into the spotlight for the crowd’s scrutiny. In a time where we find ourself subscribing to different narratives and interpretations of the facts, the investigation of this through the courtroom is Graham’s strongest point.

Accompanying the thought-provoking writing are some great performances from the cast. Utopia‘s Gavin Spokes delivers an impressive performance as the eccentric major, Stephanie Street is a solid Diana Ingram and Greg Haiste plays a variety of roles with vibrancy. Sarah Woodward and Paul Bazely also give enthusiastic portrayals of the two lawyers involved in the trial.

Chuck all this in with audience participation and a fourth wall break, and you have a thrilling multi-media production that both investigates and challenges reality. Quiz is a must for big thinkers and gameshow fanatics.

Rating: 4/5