This 9/11 inspired show sets out to demonstrate that love and compassion can flourish in the very darkest of places. In that respect, Come From Away succeeds admirably.
The show’s message of hope and positivity is certainly timely and it has thankfully been warmly received by audiences around the globe. This West End version of the show has fared little different with the production receiving a standing ovation on every single night since it opened.
The story, by the Canadian writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein, tells how the inhabitants of tiny Newfoundland and threw open their houses, wallets and hearts to over 7,000 strangers who were stranded on planes in the aftermath of 9/11.
The production movingly shows how the tired and confused passengers, initially unaware of the enormity of the situation, gradually begin to comprehend what has happened.
One particularly significant scene shows the group, open mouthed, watching TV footage of the tragedy for the first time. Although the audience cannot see what they are watching, it is obvious from the many pained expressions on their faces how traumatic the experience proves.
The scene provides a powerful reminder that behind the otherwise jovial and cheery atmosphere of the show lies a devastating tragedy. However, the productions great skill is never dwelling on this tragedy for too long without balancing it with the uplifting evidence of kindness that the stranded passengers find in Newfoundland.
The 12-strong cast each play several characters, switching between passenger and local so seamlessly that you stop noticing the changes.
Indeed, the whole cast is so good that it seems churlish to single anyone out, but Rachel Tucker’s pilot shines brightly as does Cat Simmons as the mother desperately waiting for news of her son. Honourable mention also goes to Helen Dobson and Robert who the loners who suddenly find themselves thrown together.
The show does not shy away from showing the more negative impact of the tragedy. A Muslim man is treated with suspicion by the other passengers until they learn that he can cook. In another heartrending scene, a mother hears of the death of her fireman in New York.
In the end though, Come From Away is about neither anger or hate. The show is a rousing, stomping celebration of human kindness and compassion. A particularly touching scene near the end of the production has the grateful passengers saying their goodbyes while several also offer their hosts money. Typically, each offer of reward is refused with a casual “tsh, you would have done the same”. It’s a small scene but it encapsulates the kindness of the Canadians as well as any.
Bad things happen, Come From Away seems to say, but the power of human kindness is enduring. Amen to that.
Come From Away is booking at the Phoenix Theatre, London until the 15th of October 2022. More information about the production can be found here.
For information on other great theatre productions in London, please click here.