If I were to tell you that a show that’s largely about 9/11 is feel-good theatre at its best, I’d forgive you for not believing me. But that’s exactly what Come From Away is. Having had a successful run in Seattle, Toronto and Broadway, the musical by Irene Sankoff and David Hein has transferred across the Atlantic and opened in the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road and is bringing us the joy we all need right now.
Set in Gander, a remote town in Newfoundland, this tells the extraordinary true story of what happened when 38 planes were diverted there in the midst of the 9/11 attacks, as a result of US airspace being closed. 7,000 people from all over the world were suddenly stranded in Gander, almost doubling the population overnight. The now-notoriously kind locals not only greeted them with open arms, but dropped everything in order to house, feed and support every single person.
Delivered by a fabulous cast, both the Newfinese and the “come from aways”, as they’re referred to, share stories, form new bonds, and learn new lessons. We hear from a pioneering female pilot, while a very funny Englishman awkwardly pulls an American divorcee. Each cast-member takes on several roles, with swift choreography and uplifting music from an on-stage band making this 100 minute production without an interval thoroughly enchanting.
Having said that, Come From Away doesn’t gloss over or sugar coat the atrocities that happened that day either. There are some achingly sad moments too. Some of the characters spend days waiting to hear if loved ones in New York or family on other planes are okay, and you feel that agonising wait with them.
But largely, despite what you’d assume, this is a feel-good show, and Come from Away has arrived on U.K. turf just at the right moment. We might be surrounded by Brexit and hostility, but the show is bursting with community, inclusivity, love, humour and the human spirit. Its message is a simple one of extending charity and hospitality to outsiders, regardless of race, sexuality or religion, and we could certainly all learn a lot from it. 5/5
Review written by Anna Bonet.
Come From Away is currently showing until Saturday 14th September 2019 at the Phoenix Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…