In The Jungle, refugees put on a show inspired by their travels - US Today News
Comment on this story The Shakespeare Theater Company's The Jungle, a play inspired by refugees living in a migrant camp near the French port city of Calais, was set up seven years ago by Yasin Moradi and Joe Murphy. Moradi initially declined to take a look at the tent, but when he and Robertson arrived, they discovered a cacophonous collision of song, dance, painting and other arts. The show premiered at London's Young Vic in 2017 and is now on stage at the Shakespeare Theater’s Harman Hall. Murphy and Robertson's production features three jungle-dwelling actors, Moradi, Mohamed Sarrar and Milan Tajmiri. They reflect on the songs they had performed around the campfire and the stories shared from one refugee to another and decided to do what they do best.
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Floorboards creak and dirt crunches as guests from the Shakespeare Theater Company make their way to the wooden banquette seating of The Jungle, a captivating play in which audience and performer share the same performance space and occasionally interact. The transportive experience should open the eyes. But it’s all too familiar to actor Yasin Moradi.
It was seven years ago that Moradi arrived at the place that inspired the play – a migrant camp near the French port city of Calais, some 20 miles from the English coast – with hopes of starting a new life in the UK. But as the Kurdish refugee from Iran quickly realised, dreams and despair were intertwined in the shantytown known as Jungle. As more than 8,000 migrants there sought transit to the UK or awaited French asylum applications, they bided their time in a camp lacking in essentials like food, running water and medical supplies.
“I was in my tent, hopeless, disappointed. I didn’t know what was going on with my situation,” Moradi recalled during a recent video chat. “We all had this one thing in common: finding a safe country to live in. Unfortunately, we were ignored by the UK and European governments and nobody paid any attention to us. No food, no shelter. The only hope we had was with such nice volunteers. They came over and helped us, but it wasn’t enough.”
Desperate, Moradi initially declined when a friend told him about the excitement emanating from a large dome tent in the jungle and suggested they take a look. Eventually, however, Moradi relented. Upon arrival, the duo discovered something unexpected: a cacophonous collision of song, dance, painting and other arts.
Dubbed Good Chance Theater, the performance venue was the brainchild of British playwrights Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, who spent several months volunteering in the jungle. Although the camp was dismantled by French authorities in October 2016, it lives on in Murphy and Robertson’s The Jungle, which premiered at London’s Young Vic in 2017 and is now on stage at the Shakespeare Theater’s Harman Hall (in a co-production with Woolly). mammoth theater).
Co-directed by The Crown’s Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin, this production features three jungle-dwelling actors – Moradi, Mohamed Sarrar and Milan Tajmiri – and Now relive the experience on stage.
“I was there for six weeks, but it seems like it’s been longer,” Moradi says of the camp. “Every time I do ‘The Jungle’ it seems like I’m still there. I can feel it because I had that experience.”
When Murphy and Robertson arrived in the jungle in September 2015, with a car full of kitchen utensils and groceries — and a loose quest to help wherever they could — they discovered a camp fraught with logistical challenges but blessed with a rich sense of community was. Restaurants, supermarkets, hairdressers, places of worship – everything had developed in the self-governing society of over 30 nationalities.
“It already had the outline of a city, and that just blew us away,” says Robertson. “So many of our misunderstandings and prejudices were shattered in the face of this incredible humanity.”
While other volunteers and humanitarian groups took the lead in providing essential resources, Robertson and Murphy considered what they could contribute. They reflected on the songs they had seen performed around the campfire or the stories shared from one refugee to another and decided to do what they do best: storytelling.
“We don’t claim to be good carpenters,” says Murphy, “but what we do know, we think, is how to bring people together in an artistic space.”
So they bought a geodesic tent, erected it with the help of dozens of refugees, and founded the Good Chance Theater. After coming across the venue, Moradi informed Robertson and Murphy of his background as a kung fu expert and began teaching martial arts classes. Sarrar, a drummer and singer from Sudan who left his country amid the war in Darfur, was inspired to offer his musical talent after seeing a performance by Tajmiri, a guitarist and singer from Iran, at the theater.
Looking back on his journey, Sarrar says: “I crossed the sea from Africa to Italy. I can’t swim until this moment – so I crossed over in a small boat. So if I didn’t have to, I would never do it. Everyone has a story because something compelled them to embark on this unknown journey.”
When Robertson and Murphy decided to write The Jungle – an ensemble piece set in an Afghan café before the camp was demolished – they reached out to Calais refugees who had traveled to the UK to star in the production. The playwrights also molded certain characters around the real-life stories of the actors they play; For example, when Sarrar’s character performs a song, it is a tune that the musician wrote while he was in Calais.
“That lived experience of being there is a complex thing that needs to be attempted and passed on,” says Murphy. “But it’s a really, really crucial part of the dynamic of this place and one of the reasons I think we felt like there was a real story to tell here.”
Robertson adds, “It’s such a gift they’re offering. You have so much patience, kindness and generosity to keep telling this story and to believe in it – to believe that it needs to be heard.”
In the last six years The Jungle has been performed half a dozen times – twice in London, twice in New York, once in San Francisco and now in Washington. But his harrowing portrayal of the refugee crisis is no less relevant. According to the UN refugee agency, there were still 32.5 million refugees and 4.5 million asylum seekers worldwide in mid-2022.
“This show literally shows that these people have families,” says Moradi. “You have friends. you have a dream They are people like you.”