Currently playing at London’s Phoenix Theatre, Come From Away tells the remarkable true stories of some of the 7000 individuals whose flights were redirected to the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11.
It’s safe to say that 9/11 is an extremely sensitive topic with over 3,000 American citizens losing their lives on 1st September 2001, a day that changed history forever. With so many across the world effected by the events of the attack, it is approached at the artist’s own peril. That being said, Come From Away beautifully handles the delicate subject matter and tells a staggeringly uplifting tale.
Told through the folksy Irish compositions of David Hein and Irene Sankoff, the show is essentially a story of kindness and love in a time of darkness yet doesn’t become an obnoxious story of happiness, and respectfully grasps some of the very real issues that were prominent at the time; the cruel mistreatment of an innocent middle-eastern passenger, a gay couple who are too afraid to admit their relationship for fear of backlash, and fraying tempers in an incredibly distressing situation.
There are some truly heartbreaking moments during the show, one of the most poignant being Lead Us Out of the Night where the disoriented passengers finally watch the footage of the attack and find out what has happened, as well as Beverley (Rachel Tucker) finding out one of her good friends was Captain of the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon. Tucker’s powerhouse voice is incredibly showcased during her rendition of Me and the Sky, another standout moment of the show.
Christopher Ashley’s cast is simply phenomenal with each member playing more than one character, switching between different costumes and accents in a matter of seconds. Running for 105 minutes without an interval, Come From Away delivers a truly epic evening of theatre, dragging the audience along its emotional roller coaster and stating in the finale “tonight we honour what was lost, but we also commemorate what we found”.
I certainly didn’t know what to expect from a musical about 9/11, but I can say hand on heart that it would be a crime to miss Come From Away during its short stay in London. I have never seen an audience more anxious to leap to their feet for a standing ovation at the end of the show, and I’ve never seen a show or a cast that deserved it more.