Adam @ ' The Jungle' - sell your first born to see this show

What’s it about?

Refugees in a camp in Northern France grapple with what home means for them as they try to make their way to the U.K. to seek asylum. Heartbreaking, beautiful, confrontational and important. 

My experience.

The first time I remember crying at a piece of theatre I was 13, attending Interlochen, an arts summer camp in the woods of Michigan. I had just seen the high schoolers in a production of Aida and, for some reason, as I left the theatre, tears POURED down my face. I was that kid — the kid who cried at Aida.

I didn’t cry again at a theatre until I saw Angels in America this past summer on Broadway. No play had ever spoken to my experience as a gay man in America so accurately. I had never seen a play so eloquently describe the suffering and the triumphs of what it means to be queer. When Andrew Garfield looked out into the audience at the end of the play and said, plainly, “You are beautiful, each and every one of you,” I think I believed him. And then the tears came. And it was Aida all over again.

On the afternoon of Thursday, January 24, I cried at the theatre again at The Jungle, a play that transferred from the National Theatre in London (really the Bentley of theatre companies) to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. 

I embarked from the Upper West Side all the way to Dumbo, still sweaty and sore from the dance class I had in the morning. It’s rare for shows to have Thursday matinees, but The Jungle does. I happened to not have a class sooooo there I was, on the Brooklyn waterfront in the pouring rain on a Thursday.

I walked into the sleek and modern St. Ann’s Warehouse and saw the interior had been completely transformed into a refugee camp. It was like a circus tent but when you walked inside there were no lions or acrobats, just an Afghan restaurant. The audience were the patrons, and we filled the benches, which were organized into different nationalities. I was ushered to my seat, Afghan 43, which was right in front of the long table that served as a stage. I immediately had that kind of cold-sweat momentary panic when I thought, oh shit… I better not be chosen by the actors. I hate audience participation.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that all I had to do throughout the show’s 2 hours and 45 minutes was sit and absorb the incredible story that was being told on top of the tables the audience clustered around. The show encompasses many tales of refugees from all over Africa and the Middle East, who had come to this camp with nothing in the hope of finding safe transport into the U.K. 

I can’t find another word to describe this piece of theatre except masterpiece. It’s a timely, important, invigorating and transcendent work of art that comes around so rarely. I’m glad that I didn’t miss it.  

Leaving the show, I expected to exit into the same storm that had drenched me as I entered the theatre. Instead, I found the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, sunny and warm, hopeful and calming. It was as if the telling of this story had caused the rain to go away. Despite the pain and suffering displayed onstage during The Jungle, the light, the warmth and the love never dimmed. Not once, not even in the final moments of the play. I felt the warmth throughout, and I think that’s what made me cry, not the sorrow presented so beautifully on stage. I felt warm. In the cold of January, it was everything I could have asked for.

I feel grateful to have seen this piece. I beg you to go see it while you still can. Do whatever you have to. Sell your first-born child. Seriously. 

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