London play charts real-life drama of ‘Jungle’ migrant camp

The camp was widely seen as a result of a controversial 2003 accord that effectively moved Britain’s border with France to the French side of the Channel. (AFP)
Updated 09 January 2018
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London play charts real-life drama of ‘Jungle’ migrant camp

LONDON: A boy is found dead and smoke fills the air ahead of a police raid: traumatic memories from France’s “Jungle” migrant camp are being recreated on a London stage.
More than a year since police swept through the squalid camp near the port of Calais, clearing out an estimated 7,000 migrants, the ordeal is captured vividly in “The Jungle” playing to sell-out crowds at the Young Vic theater.
The play is the creation of two writers who set up their own theater amid the chaos in Calais, with casts including migrant actors.
“We ended up wanting to chart the creation of that society and then the destruction, or downfall, of that society,” playwright Joe Murphy told AFP.
Murphy and fellow writer Joe Robertson, both 27, set up the Good Chance Theatre in September 2015 at the heart of the Jungle, their actors performing under a second-hand geodesic dome tent.
Three of the migrants who acted in Calais are now performing in “The Jungle,” which lays bare the precarious and dangerous times faced by those searching desperately for a passage to Britain.
Episodes in which characters race off to try their luck — seeking their “good chance” in Jungle lingo — on the roads toward the port bring tears to patrons’ eyes.
A total of 33 migrants died in the Calais area in 2015 and 2016, mostly being hit by vehicles as they tried to climb into lorries, or by trains about to pass through the Channel Tunnel.
The camp was widely seen as a result of a controversial 2003 accord that effectively moved Britain’s border with France to the French side of the Channel, creating a magnet for migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
The play’s scenes of despair are punctuated by music and laughter, as different nationalities try to live together and naive British volunteers turn up with breakfast cereal and good intentions.
“We have tried to be as honest as possible about the role we played and the role that the volunteers played in Calais,” Robertson said.
“We’ve tried to be really critical at times of the impact individuals have when they try and help.”
The play’s narrator is Ammar Hajj Ahmad, himself a refugee from Syria, who did not pass through Calais and sees his role as creating empathy.
“It’s my task to invite people to strip with me, to really be vulnerable, whether we cry or we don’t cry, to look people in the eye and say, ‘now you know’,” he said.
The desire to understand what happened across the Channel is a main draw of the show, which closes on Tuesday, before the playwrights move on to their next project.
Later this month Good Chance Paris will open in the northern Porte de la Chapelle area, bringing the dome tent used in Calais to the French capital.
“We will be a theater that welcomes people of all backgrounds, who’ve been in the city and were born there and lived there all their lives, and those that arrived there the day before,” Murphy said.
Under the stewardship of Good Chance’s French executive producer Claire Bejanin and in collaboration with the charity Emmaus Solidarite, the creative arts space will have an initial 10-week run.
Murphy said he wanted to bring together people from a wide political spectrum — “people who are very skeptical, or angry, or scared, or feel very strongly about the issue.”
Although the Calais camp has long since closed, its legacy is expected to last, and the playwrights plan to take their theater to Athens, whose government continues to grapple with a relentless migrant crisis.
For Murphy, art is the ideal means to stimulate dialogue between sometimes very different groups of people.
“Art is disarming, it’s generous, it’s gentle, but it’s kind of dangerously explorative at the same time. And that’s the context and the theater that we want to create.”


Mozart manuscript expected to sell for €500,000

Updated 18 June 2018
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Mozart manuscript expected to sell for €500,000

  • The 130,000 manuscripts and historical documents that Aristophil had its investors sink their savings into are now being dispersed in auctions over the next six years
  • The manuscripts are part of a vast sell-off by the French state of the collection amassed by the collapsed investment firm Aristophil

PARIS: The first draft of music Mozart wrote for the last act of his opera "The Marriage of Figaro" is expected to sell for half a million euros ($578,000) when it goes under the hammer in Paris.
The "exceptional" manuscript from 1786 which will be auctioned on Wednesday in the French capital comes from the peak of the composer's career in Vienna, the auction house Ader Nordmann said.
Called "Scena con Rondo", Mozart wrote the music initially as a recitative to be sung by Figaro's bride, Susanna, before rejecting it for the now legendary aria, "Deh vieni non tardar".
"These four pages are particularly important because they reveal Mozart at work, struggling to rethink a scene in the final act of the opera," expert Thierry Bodin told AFP.
It will be sold along with another Mozart manuscript, a fragment of a serenade to youth written by young Wolfgang Amadeus when he was only 17.
Probably commissioned by the "chancellor of Salzburg, who was a friend of the Mozart family, to mark the end of his son's studies," according to Bodin, it is expected to make between 120,000 and 150,000 euros.
The manuscripts are part of a vast sell-off by the French state of the collection amassed by the collapsed investment firm Aristophil.
It was shut down in scandal three years ago, taking 850 million euros ($1 billion) of its investors' money with it.
The 130,000 manuscripts and historical documents that Aristophil had its investors sink their savings into are now being dispersed in auctions over the next six years run by Ader Nordmann and three other French auction houses, Artcurial, Drouot Estimations and Aguttes.