21st March 2019
Come From Away – 100 minutes of pure emotion.
I feel like I have so much to say about this show but equally, I’m not sure I have the words to do it justice. I don’t think I have ever felt so personally affected by a show and I certainly don’t think I have ever been to a show where the whole audience have watched so intensely. Everyone was so involved, so invested. The fact that the show is played straight with no interval helps with this, everyone is able to remain immersed. And trust me, with this show, once you’re in…you’re well and truly in, this story gets right into you bones.
This is a show that is so human, so raw.
After the horrific attacks on 11th September 2001, American airspace was closed and all flights already en route had to be diverted. Come From Away tells the story of how the arrival of 38 planes in Gander, Newfoundland caused the local population to almost double in the space of a few hours. We are introduced to a less familiar story of what happened that day, and the days following, and are reminded how the best in humanity can come out of an event caused by the worst.
From the very start, the audience are invited to be a part of this moment by having the opportunity to put a pin in a world map to show where they have come from, reminding us that we all “come from away”. The map also serves to illustrate how this show has brought so many people, from all corners of the earth, together.
What makes this show work so well is its simplicity. It knows exactly what it needs to be, no gimmicks. The set design is kept minimal with just chairs, a few small props and a revolve, complemented by effective choreography, to help transport us onto the planes, into the shelters and anywhere else the show wishes to take us. The story, told so well, does not need to hide behind anything, it does not need to be dressed up – it speaks for itself.
The relatively small cast of just 12 embody the stories of the almost 7,000 “plane people” stranded in Gander through a total of 84 characters. Some characters play prominent parts whilst we don’t even learn the name of others. With the constant switching of roles it is not always clear who is playing who but this doesn’t matter, and almost seems purposeful, as it demonstrates that this story is about everyone, not individuals.
The music, similarly, feels stripped back, a soundtrack with apparent Irish undertones that pulls you in and wraps you in a feeling of homeliness. The musicians remain to the sides of the stage throughout the whole show but, when some of them are brought to the fore for the finale, this serves as a reminder that everyone is a part of this show.
Come From Away is undeniably a show that will connect with anyone. Although it is about the events of a particular day(s), it is ultimately a story about loss, fear and human kindness, something which will hold meaning to everyone.
The show had a more personal meaning to me and it was the ultimate reason I went to see it.
For those of us old enough, we are all sure to be able to recall where we were when we heard about the 9/11 attacks. I was 11, not long having started high school. I arrived home from school to find my parents intently watching the news. I was excited about a new computer game that had arrived that day and could not understand why my parents were not interested in talking about it. At the time, I did not realise the significance of the event and I also did not realise the affect it would have on the path that I took in life.
As I got older and started to learn and understand more about what happened that day, I became interested in the human reaction to such events – what people do in the face of something so horrific while also being equally interested in what can be done to respond better or cope better with such incidents in future.
Fast forward to 2019 and I am now an emergency planner. As it would suggest, I plan for and respond to emergencies. My job is to think about bad things that could happen and work out how we can respond in the best possible way, to make sure we are as prepared as we can be. There are some things that we can’t stop from happening, but we can try and make sure we deal with them better. Looking back, it is the events of 9/11 that ultimately led me down this career path and it is for that reason that Come From Away really hit home for me. I walked out the theatre reminded – this is why I do what I do.
Come From Away is currently booking at the Phoenix Theatre until 14th September 2019