The Jungle, play about Calais migrant camp life, to get West End run

Playhouse Theatre will stage immersive production of work by Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy

The Jungle, the immersive play that won five-star reviews for its powerful portrayal of life in the now-bulldozed Calais migrant camp, is to get a West End transfer.

The Playhouse Theatre will be radically redesigned to accommodate Miriam Buether’s set design, which placed audiences in a recreation of the camp’s ramshackle Afghan cafe as the action unfurled around them.

It was written by two young playwrights, Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy, who founded the Good Chance project, which brought theatrical productions to the Calais migrant camp.

Robertson said the play, which had a short run at the Young Vic in London, was an attempt to convey the many stories of the people they encountered in the camp and was intended to provoke debate.

“We always thought it was a truthful, beautiful, small piece so we were kind of blown away by the response and the impact it was having on audiences,” Robertson said. “We felt at the end of the run that it had to be seen by more people so the fact we can now do that in one of London’s beautiful theatres … it feels right. We’re thrilled.”

The play has been praised by writers on all sides of the political spectrum, as has Good Chance itself, with the late AA Gill pouring praise on the venture and giving the Afghan cafe four stars in a Sunday Times restaurant review.

Murphy said the transfer was a chance to reach more people and “begin the discussion once again on the issues the play raises”.

The playwrights Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy, who founded the Good Chance project.
The playwrights Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy, who founded the Good Chance project and wrote The Jungle. Photograph: Sarah Lee/Guardian

He added: “We want this to be a play that doesn’t try to preach or teach but does provoke debate because it is one we need to have. Many, many people are still arriving in Europe, still arriving in Britain, and the question of how do we live together is as vital now as it was when we first arrived in Calais.”

Getting a diverse audience will be important, say producers, and 40% of the tickets will be priced at £25. A proportion of tickets will be offered to refugees.

The Playhouse will be reconfigured to allow the audience to sit at cafe tables and benches, and the dress circle will be renamed “the cliffs of Dover”.

The majority of the large cast from the Young Vic are returning, including Ben Turner as the Afghan chef and Alex Lawther as a well-spoken volunteer.

The play, directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, was a co-production between the Young Vic and the National Theatre and its producers include the the West End impresario Sonia Friedman.

David Lan, artistic director at the Young Vic, said he was delighted that it would be seen by more people. “It was clear from the start that The Jungle would be one of the most provocative and significant shows I’ve produced. It tells a powerful, real-life story that matters hugely to everyone.”

The Jungle will begin previews at the Playhouse Theatre in London from 16 June.


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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