The Journey From the Calais Jungle to the London Stage

It was, by and large, a success. Essentially a progressive community center, it built its programming around the talents of the Jungle’s transient population. On any given day, it might host theater workshops from “the two Joes,” kung fu lessons from the Iranian master who was a fixture for a few months, and all manner of dance, circus and live music performances — some from the band Mr. Sarrar had assembled shortly after arriving. It was empowering, entertaining and a rare melting pot for the camp’s myriad nationalities. (It also attracted negative coverage in the British tabloids, notably a Daily Express article that described it as a “nightclub,” where “migrants dance the night away.”)

But even with the ameliorating factors of music and camaraderie, the Jungle was no idyllic setting.

It certainly wasn’t pleasurable for Mr. Sarrar; he said that he tried to leave every night. But he played in his band, wrote some songs — he is particularly proud of an upbeat number recounting an absurd 24 hours he spent trapped in the Eurostar terminal in Calais — and made some contacts. One night, his own “good chance” came: He stowed away in a truck and made it through to Birmingham, England, where he claimed asylum. Six months later, he was granted leave to remain for five years, with the possibility of extension.

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Robertson remained in Calais, where the situation was rapidly deteriorating. “The cold was awful,” Mr. Robertson said. “The sanitation was awful, the police gradually became more aggressive and the unaccompanied kids started to go, well, mad. The mental health really got awful.”

Good Chance lasted until March 2016, when a section of the camp was forcibly cleared by French authorities. The rest of the Jungle was bulldozed in October 2016.


John Pfumojena in rehearsal for “The Jungle” at London’s Young Vic theater.

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