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Review: Jungle


The Jungle

Young Vic, London


YOU might think that the biggest crisis facing Europe is Brexit. But in terms of deaths and desperation, it is by some margin the wave of migrants who have perished in Europe’s seas or shivered in makeshift camps on its land.

One of the most notorious of these was outside Calais before it was razed last year. It was known as the Jungle by its inhabitants. That title well describes a place where life for the thousands there was about daily survival. But this remarkable and at times deeply moving play by two young Brits known as ‘the Joes’ (surnames Murphy and Robertson) reveals that it was less a camp than an impromptu city.

Co-directors Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin recreate it in the auditorium. Scrawled signs direct you to one of the quarters, each named after a country from which the destitute communities originated.

Those who visited the Jungle (I reported from there) can confirm that this show feels uncannily like the real thing, apart from the brutal winter cold. Tarpaulins are stapled to timber frames, the vibration of generators is constant. You sit at the table of a pop-up Afghan restaurant run by the tough Salar and around you emerge the stories of UK volunteers and those they helped. They could include the Joes, who founded the Good Chance Theatre in the Jungle. But their role here is as writers.

Although there are tales, such as that of mentally and physically scarred 17-year-old Okot from Sudan (beautifully underplayed by John Pfumojena) that will sear themselves into the memory, so will the impression that the Jungle was brimful of hope, humour and humanity.