THEATRE REVIEW: Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre


WHERE? RUNTIME: 100 minutes (no interval)

WHEN? 9/2/19 (matinee), opens 18/2/19, booking until 14/9/19

‘Come from aways’ is a Newfoundland description for visitors from beyond the island and this is the story of what happened in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when 38 planes were grounded there and the community embraced the outsiders.

  • Read on for reasons including why this is a big, warm hug of a musical about the importance of kindness

Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein talked to many the 10,000 residents of the Newfoundland town of Gander about what happened when they welcomed over 6,500 strangers into their midst for 5 days when uncertainty and fear ran rife in the world.

The 12-strong ensemble cast play multiple characters, both ‘come from aways’ and islanders, and there are many different stories being told including an unlikely love story between 2 passengers, a friendship between 2 mothers whose sons are both firefighters and about a gay couple who fear how their relationship might be perceived by the islanders.

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Elsewhere residents stage a birthday party for visitors from the Make-A-Wish Foundation who were due to celebrate their big days at Disneyland and a worker in Gander’s animal shelter realises there must be animals on the planes and makes it her mission to care for the menagerie of 19.

Newfoundland owes much of its music and language and culture to this country and was a British colony until 1949. The music here is predominantly Irish folk and there’s a moment of pure joy as the 2 communities bond through a ritual called ‘screeching in’ which involves drinking tasteless whiskey and kissing a dead fish.

Also included in the events is the story of Beverley Bass, a former aircraft pilot who was the 1st female captain of an American Airlines aircraft and her success in a male-dominated world gives the musical contemporary relevance.

There’s no inventive staging, star names or hit songs on the soundtrack and the feel is very much of a rehearsed reading with chairs used to recreate the plane seating as the lo-fi vibe of the setting enhances the message that simple kindness can be beautiful.

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We’re not ashamed to say that we shed a few tears at the musical’s denouement as 2 characters in similar circumstances bond as tragic news is broken.

Come From Away is a big, warm hug of a musical about how kindness can heal division and make the world a better place. It’s already a hit on Broadway and will, no doubt, run and run in London’s West End.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Come From Away London. Tickets
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