As I was watching The Jungle, the debut play of Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, my mind was focused on what was happening at the US border. With the migrant children being forcibly separated from their families, as a result of the callousness of President Trump and his administration. His abhorrent treatment of immigrants, could not be different from how the French and British governments, denied the much needed help and support to the refugees, that travelled to the Calais Jungle from the various parts of the Middle East. Government hypocrisy is as omnipresent in 2018, as it was during the period of 2014-16. The play currently in performance at the Playhouse, is a stunning experience of both human interest and urgency. It implores the audience to put themselves in the shoes of the migrants and the desperate struggles they are going through.
Miriam Buether, the acclaimed designer behind more recent theatre productions such as Three Tall Women and A Doll’s House Part 2, astonishingly captures the harrowing experience of life in the camps within the makeshift wooden walls of a café, with a large table dominating the center of the performance space. The royal circle has also been converted to represent the White Cliffs of Dover, a recurring symbolic image throughout much of the story. The story made up of different plot lines, are tied together through the psychological direction of Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin. The various vividly drawn complex characters consist of: Okot (John Pfumojena), a 17 year old from Sudan with many different scars left from his journey, Norullah (Mohammed Amiri) who is driven to madness by his desire to get to England and Helene (Nahel Tzegai) who acts as peacekeeper amongst the fractious men, but is working towards the best decision concerning herself and her family.
There is an emphasis on diversity and culture with the cast of characters being largely black and muslim, but the play never shies away from the themes of racism and division. Even with its heavy handed subject, there are moments of incidental humour which balance out the despairing moments. The play couldn’t be any more timely considering the recent events of this year. The Jungle remains a rare piece of essential theatre that will not only challenge society’s views towards immigration, but also remind others that the struggle for an integrated and fair society remains steadfastly imperative.
The Jungle runs at the Playhouse theatre until 3 November