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The Jungle – theater that ‘takes action’ for refugees

The award-winning play The Jungle just completed its three-week Washington, DC premiere at the Shakespeare Theater Company. One Journey is proud to have been one of the refugee-serving organizations selected for the production’s ‘take action’ initiative.

The play is an intense and emotional theater experience. The set literally places the audience in the refugee camp near Calais, France, known as the Jungle (based on the Pashto word for forest). Immersed in a restaurant operating in the encampment, we meet the residents and share moments of hope, tragedy, laughter, pain, and humanity.

The Calais encampment existed from 2015 until October 2016, when it was bulldozed and dismantled by French authorities. About 8,000 people from more than 30 nationalities lived there, waiting as they sought passage to the United Kingdom or asylum in France.

During this time, two playwrights volunteered to help, but Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson saw a need for more than typical relief work. They established Good Chance Theater in the camp and as recounted in a story on the Good Chance website, “It was conceived as a place for people to come to express themselves and offered a space ‘to escape or confront the situations they were in.’ Money was raised to purchase a second-hand 11m geodesic dome, and built with the support of the Young Vic Theatre, National Theatre and Royal Court Theatre, who offered materials and equipment”.

Based on their experience, Murphy and Robertson created The Jungle, which premiered in London in 2017, and later came to New York’s St. Anne Warehouse. The Shakespeare Theater Company and Wooly Mammoth partnered to bring the production to DC audiences. Three of the cast members were residents of the Jungle, so the play has a personal, often emotional meaning for them. Their memories and experience, along with the ramshackle immediacy of the set added to the authenticity of The Jungle.

One Journey was honored to be selected by Good Chance for a fundraising effort (The Jungle Fund) during the run of the play. At several performances, audience members could visit our One Journey outreach table and talk with our volunteers in the lobby.

One Journey also participated in a pre-show fundraising reception. We were delighted to meet several of the Good Chance team, including Joe Murphy (Co-Artistic Director), Naomi Webb (Executive Director), and Phillip Cowell (Head of Creative Development). Murphy spoke to the gathering and reflected on his experience and how the camp and its residents faced hardship but still came together with a sense of community, human connection, and expectations of a “good chance” of success that are reflected in the play.

The Jungle is an unforgettable evening of theater and storytelling – and so in keeping with One Journey’s message of connection. While we may come from many paths, we are all on one journey of humanity together. We send our heartfelt appreciation to all involved, and to the friends who joined us for the fundraising reception. Thank you for your support of One Journey and standing with refugees.

Fundraising from this effort will assist us in hosting our fourth annual One Journey Festival on June 24, 2023 at the Washington National Cathedral. You won’t want to miss this free, family friendly festival and day of fun, shopping, eating, dancing, and learning. RSVP for free now on Eventbrite.


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