THE JUNGLE | London, Playhouse Theatre

The Calais Jungle was destroyed in October 2016, but the story remains more prescient than ever. The five-star, sold-out hit has transferred from the Young Vic to the West End, with a phenomenal cast and a hard-hitting message.

The Victorian gilt and plaster of the Playhouse Theatre has been transformed into a wooden shanty town covered in graffiti, on top of a dirt floor. Seated forwards, backwards and sideways on rickety benches at thin slabs covered in plastic, we are offered sweet-smelling chai and bread. It’s completely overwhelming, and the action takes place all around us, with actors sometimes whispering to us to hold lights, or to help them with safe passage to the U.K.

The most striking feature of the play is how unsympathetically the refugees are portrayed: shouty, grabby, selfish, racist and violent; the very last kind of person you would want to be your neighbour in the U.K. As the story continues, we see how their journeys and the hellish living conditions of the camp are killing their humanity. The U.K. “volunteers” are, in many ways, just as unsympathetic.

The play is long (nearly three hours), loud, and relentlessly paced, so leaving is literally a breath of fresh air: a tiny, tiny insight into the horrors that refugees have to endure. But while the message of injustice is clear, the play is not remotely didactic; it poses more questions than answers. Utterly unique and extremely intense, this really is an unforgettable experience.

£15 day seats are available at the theatre.

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