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Come From Away – Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London

I am aware that we often have conversations about where we were when… and for many of us the 911 tragedy is one of them. So this story of another side of what happened after that terrible event, is one of humility, kindness, generosity of spirit and hope.

The story about Gander in Newfoundland and the surrounding towns who took in the scared and traumatised 7,000 passengers of 38 planes what were diverted to their airport after the Americans closed the airspace following the terrorist attacks is a soul searching one. With a cast of 6 women and 6 men – the actors take on many different characters both of the townspeople of Gander the many different passengers on the planes.

The set is simple but so clever – just a dozen or more chairs and a table or two on a revolve, and the chairs make the different locations as they are placed and re placed by the cast throughout the show which means that the focus is always on the action of the performers.

Much of the music has a strong Irish folk feel which gives great up tempo numbers and the dialogue offers many lighter moments and proper belly laughs which is in strong contrast to some of the more thought provoking scenes such as the attitude towards the Muslim passengers on the plane and one particular acclaimed chef – Ali and Hannah’s need to find out about her son, a firefighter in New York.

Given that this story is based upon real events, it’s the community working together that stands out throughout and the ceilidh where some of the passengers have the opportunity to ‘Kiss the fish’ to become Newfoundlanders is a joyous moment complete with the band on stage, it just makes such an uplifting moment. I also liked the fact we were able to see the life stories of these passengers beyond those 5 days and how something that was a dark moment in global history brought some positive outcomes for those involved.

To name individual performers is difficult with such a strong cast but certainly there were a few outstanding moments from Roberts Hands as Nick, Jonathan Andrew Hume as both Kevin J and Ali, Rachel Tucker as Beverley and Jenna Boyd as Beulah. I also particularly liked the small sections with Nathaniel Campbell as the passenger ‘stealing’ the Barbecues and drinking the whisky. A small cameo role but very entertaining.

At 1 hour 40 minutes as one act with no interval the momentum keeps going and allows the audience to relate to the different characters and the intensity of the storyline.

I can certainly see eventually this show eventually being an amateur favourite, with the opportunity to split some of the characters to give more parts and deliver some big toe tapping chorus numbers.

We certainly would recommend if you can only manage one show in London right now then this is certainly one that will give you a positive vibe and have you leaving the theatre declaring “I’m an Islander, I am an Islander” so as our new friends in Newfoundland day - Welcome to The Rock!

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