Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre | Review


Come From Away
Phoenix Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 12th February 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★★

Come From Away is a giant hug in a musical which even the most icy of people will be moved by, as it portrays a time of amazing and heroic hospitality under immense pain and pressure.

Discussed as a 9/12 musical, Come From Away is set on and after the horrific events of September 11th 2001, but instead of leaving you downtrodden, it will leave you inspired and probably feeling a little sentimental. Written by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, it is an incredibly well rounded and fluent piece of theatre which provides catharsis whist becoming a celebration of goodness.

The show is set in the small town of Gander in ,Newfoundland Canada, which homes just over 11,000 people. On September 11th 2001, 38 planes were diverted to Gander airport, with 7,000 passengers and crew plus several pets and a pair of chimpanzees who were headed for a zoo. The people of Gander came together to provide shelter, food and friendship to the 'plane people'; and all who were there have incredible stories, bonds and live changing experiences from their time. They may have left Gander, but Gander never left them.


After interviewing many Plane People and Ganderites, David and Irene condensed these stories into a 100 minute show that features sleek role-swapping, musical theatre numbers and catchy Celtic tunes. Christopher Ashley's direction is crisp and to the point but also leaves room for us to study the story further, and of course allows us to look at ourselves and wonder what we would do in the same situation. This is further helped by Tara Overfield-Wilkinson's relentless and sharp choreography and Howell Binkley's striking and mood-evoking lighting. These aspects married with Beowulf Borritt's well thought out space, keep up momentum and evolve the story as simply but effectively as possible.

The heart of this show is community, and like the stories themselves, it is built around ensemble and teamwork.  The typically Newfoundland scenes such as the 'Screech In', feel like we've stepped into a pub and are really experiencing a group of people enjoying life. In such a group led piece, with smooth character changes, amazing use of simple props/set, it is unfair to name standout performances. The cast as a whole bring these people and stories to life and it's truly moving to witness such a wonderful and transformative piece of theatre. 

The cast is comprised of Jenna Boyd, Nathanael Campbell, Clive Carter, Mary Doherty, Robert Hands, Helen Hobson, Jonathan Andrew Hume, Harry Morrison, Emma Salvo, David Shannon, Cat Simmons and Rachel Tucker with Chiara Baronti, Mark Dugdale, Bob Harms, Kirsty Malpass, Tania Mathurin, Alexander McMorran, Brandon Lee Sears and Jennifer Tierney. All of whom, alongside the distinguished on stage band  (led by Alan Berry) and all the crew, who are unseen during the 100 minutes, should be equally applauded for their work on the must-see show in the West End. 

Concise and well-rounded, Come From Away is a stunning and poignant reminder of human kindness, which will surely leave you standing a little taller and smiling a little more.

Come From Away runs at the Phoenix Theatre and is currently booking until September 2019

photo credit: Matthew Murphy

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