Review Roundup: What Did The Critics Think of THE JUNGLE at St. Ann's Warehouse?
In the Jungle, thick mud clogged the pathways between the flimsy tents; and hastily-built wooden shacks offered little protection from the European winter for its inhabitants-who reached over 10,000 in 2015. Yet stories from people who had endured long and dangerous journeys, who had lost their homes and most of their belongings, still exhibited great strength, friendship and hope.
Along the Jungle's water-logged central road, there were places of worship, convenience stores, a library, and classrooms that offered respite from the harsh reality of daily life in the camp. A string of bustling cafes and restaurants run by refugees offered the comfort of home-cooked food, strong sweet tea and a place to gather with friends, to smoke, play cards, or watch music videos on TV.
The play brings the audience inside its faithfully replicated restaurant with the hope that this short-term society will be remembered in all its complexity. The cast is made up of actors from around the world, many of whom come from refugee backgrounds including the Calais Jungle and now reside in the UK.
The show officially opened last night. Let's see what the critics are saying...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Each performance is slightly larger than life, perhaps for clarity's sake. And actors like Mr. Turner, as the charismatic restaurateur; Mohammad Amiri, as his industrious adolescent protegee; and Trevor Fox, as a hard-drinking, guitar-strumming Briton, have a touch of the music-hall charmer.
But each is also defined by human fears and frailties. It's the do-gooding, often hapless English who become surrogates for much of the audience, and they are given winningly ardent and angry life by, among others, Jo McInnes and, as a precocious city planner fresh out of Eton, Alex Lawther (the teen psychopath from the Netflix series "The End of the ___ing World").
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: The play's writing sometimes lacks cohesion and feels manipulative, making it not always as artful as the production. But The Jungle nonetheless registers with a throbbing authenticity only amplified by the superb performances of the large, multinational ensemble and the virtuosic immersive staging. The production was previously seen at London's Young Vic and in the West End; New York theatergoers are lucky to have it.
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: "The Jungle" may be agitprop, and its natural constituency may not need to be convinced of the urgency of the need its characters evince for rescue. But the accomplishment here, of amplifying the voices that dark forces in the world seek to mute, is one that is surely worth honoring.
Nicole Serratore, Variety: Even with the production design's "authenticity," the theatricality of the production keeps pushing reality further away. You are acutely aware you're at a show being acted.
It's devastating to spend all this time in a room with these characters and in this place, and emerge knowing less than when we went in. Disillusion may be part of the point, but it also feels like a lost opportunity.
Thom Geier, The Wrap: "The Jungle" is that rarest of theatrical experiences. It makes us think, it makes us feel and it challenges us to find the human faces in the masses of images we see on newscasts.