THE NEW CITY “THE JUNGLE” EXPLODES AT THE SF CURRAN AS ONE OF THE BEST PLAYS OF THE DECADE
THE JUNGLE IMMERSES YOU INTO A WORLD OF HOMELESS IMMIGRANTS THAT HAVE CREATED ITS OWN NEW UNIVERSE, A BRILLIANT THEATRE EXPERIENCE
A homeless camp with a “4-star” restaurant has taken over the Orchestra pit at the San Francisco Curran Theatre, and it is an overpowering heart pounding theatre experience. Good Chance Theatre, National Theatre and Young Vic production of THE JUNGLE is now letting theatre fans join their homeless camp through May 19th. Written by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, and under the terrific direction of Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin. The company is made up of 24 actors from around the world, including three actors from the Jungle that emploaded in Calais France in 2015.
Less than three years after its origin and historic creation, two young English writers entered the camp and created an acting troupe to entertain the 10,000 immigrants and refugees in the Jungle.
The Curran’s 1600 seat proscenium theater had a remarkable makeover in order to house THE JUNGLE’s 360° staging and designer Miriam Buether’s award-winning set. Audiences enter the camp restaurant through the full working kitchen created by the designers. The Afghan café in the Calais camp, serves some of the audience at the long runway tables that double as the Jungles stage. The mezzanine seats allows a full view of the event. This magnificent transformation has reduced the capacity of the Curran to a more in-your-face 600 seats or benches and some of the sold out visitors sit on the dirt ground floor.
Managing Artistic Director Carole Shorenstein Hays is very excited about the passion of this play; “It is a pleasure to introduce our audiences to a truly visional artistic team. By putting such a heartbreakingly human face on a story too often told through statistics, THE JUNGLE manages to provide us with both an incredible evening of theater and a moral imperative for our times. It is precisely the show America needs right now, as we struggle mightily to harness the collective strength of our better selves. Let the dialogue begin, Bay Area."
Co writer Joe Murphy attended the opening night April 4th and says “this show has taken me on a very long journey, we have people from eleven different countries this is truly a global play, a huge amount of inspiration came from the people we met in the camp, we were there for seven months, we asked ourselves should we develop a story, it felt important to us so we set about doing this and here we are.”
THE JUNGLE vividly immerses us into the world of a homeless and refugee camp that created its own world universe. It tells the real story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its fall in 2016. This extraordinary two hour and 45 min experience brings attention to the European migrant crisis that still is on going in France and around the world. The playwrights Murphy and Robertson set up a camp theater within the Jungle during their 2015 visit. The stories and drama that happens around the theatre are experiences from the actual camp. This reminds me of the Theatre that came out of the Delano Ca in 1965 as Cesar Chavez was fighting for Farm workers. Icon Luis Valdez created the award winning El Teatro Campesino during the Mexican and Filipino farmworkers movement.
The visit to the camp drops us in the center of madness of asylum-seekers and a clash of cultures and in your face passion. Most of the evening is a flashback as the first scene begins we see the Jungle is destroyed. Riot police with bats, and bulldozers crush the restaurant, and the sold out audience spread throughout the floor space duck for cover. The real 6000 refugees along with 460 children many of the kids unaccompanied witnessed this dark end and directors Daldry and Martin recreated the terror that lifts from your seat. Scene two and the action then flashes back to March 2015 about two months after the Jungle begins to form.
The Curran theater space and the camp’s designer Buether keeps the Afghan Cafe busy at all times with dance and celebration. But emotions are always heated and dialogue overlaps as many stories happen at once as audience sits in front of long, narrow tables on a dirt floor with wider platforms that serve as walkways for the actors to walk among us. I sat in the back Orchestra area and was able to see a full view of the events, many that the pit audience misses. Actors approach you to help make flyers or help them get dressed or set up the tents.
The two young British men who wanted to cover this new city of tents on top a landfill near Calais, France have created an explosive immersive, theatrical experience. THE JUNGLE is a world mix, multicultural community that will move you and keep your head turning as you watch life happen in the camp. We meet people from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Sudan who manage to set aside their religious, cultural and life differences to create a new city with a common purpose.
A group of British United Volunteers arrive at the Jungle who are full of skepticism. Salar the restaurant owner yells at the pale white do gooders “You have destroyed my village three times in the last 200 years.” Played by the authentic Ben Turner, he tells the Brits, who are carrying selfie-sticks “This is the End of the Fucking World this is Glastonbury without the toilets.” The Brits become part of the community, as they help to establish services like housing, medical, sanitation and classes for the growing number of unaccompanied children in the camp.
“Everyone here is running away from something. We’re all refugees,” says the banjo playing lush and hero Boxer played by the colorful Trevor Fox. The “puck” of the cast is estranged from his ex-wife and young daughter back in the U.K. but finds a sense of purpose in the Jungle. The action is all around the crowded café, the cast hold up cell phones to show videos of being crammed onto rubber dinghies and sinking rafts, media coverage from 2015. Duncan McLean and Tristan Shepard video design includes TV monitors - but they are not large so you have to look for them. The riveting direction by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin is show stopping as they keep the show moving and overlapping the many stories. The movement, fights, riots, dance, partying and real life events celebrate this diverse cast.
The one child actor in the company is Little Amal played by the unforgettable Zara Rasti who is from the Bay Area - holds her own in this madness in her first play. Amal wanders among the audience with an innocent smile and holding her future watching her performance brings a tear to many . I need to mention a third real subtext from the Jungle. The real smells of burnt wood, moving unshowered bodies, dirt floors, and the wonderful food always cooking.
Stunning lighting designer Jon Clark gives the cast much of the challenge as many scenes are lit by the flash lights the cast carries. The space is full of subtle colors and lights that hang from the tents. Sound designer Paul Ardito brings a powerful pounding sound as the bulldozers rip through the Jungle. The camp shakes when tractor-trailers barrel by on the nearby highway and also provides a persistent industrial hum. The immigrants and dancers fill the house with natural sound instruments. The video clips from the actual Jungle are edited and produced by McLean and Shepard and at times the video is live from the cell phones from the New City.
The refugees we meet share similar stories of loss and the hope and they seek a better life. “A refugee dies many times,” a teenager from Darfur named Okot played by the poignant John Pfumojena recounts his harrowing journey to the Jungle. He knows that French authorities will destroy and break up the new city. THE JUNGLE is a spellbinding theatrical experiences. It makes us challenge to find “everyman” in the media war of images as seen on newscasts and our cell phones.
Writers Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson confront and challenge the audience each night. The two have created one of the stage events of the decade. A theatre experiences that rivals a madding Shakespeare rumble and Hamilton “One Shot”. Next up at the Curran is another complete theatre transformation for HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD that begins previews October 23rd. But in the meantime do anything you can to visit THE JUNGLE, tickets are going fast, but daily at 9am TodayTix.com offers single 25.00 rush seats. As the opening night standing ovation continued, tears and cheers raised the roof off this JUNGLE. This new world city must close May 19th.
THE SAN FRANCISCO’S CURRAN PRESENTS
THE WEST COAST PREMIERE OF
The Good Chance Theatre, National Theatre and Young Vic production
by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson
Directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin
Must close MAY 19, 2019
Curran Theatre 445 Geary Street, San Francisco
Two hours, forty-five minutes
CREATIVE: Directed by Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin. Sets, Miriam Buether; Catherine Kodicek, costumes; Jon Clark, lighting; Paul Arditti, sound design, and John Pfumojena, musical direction, compositions and arrangements; Tristan Shepherd and Duncan McIean, video design; and casting by Julia Horan CDG and Telsey + Company, and Georgia Bird, Stage Manager.