Category: Recommendation


Recommendation: The Jungle

AFOAF Artistic Director comments on The Young Vic’s latest transfer to the West End: The Jungle, a new play by Joe Murphy & Joe Robertson, directed by Stephen Daldry & Justin Martin.



First of all, let’s talk about the booking process. Contrary to standard theatre convention, you aren’t booking for the Stalls, Dress Circle, instead you are given a choice: Afghan Café, or Cliffs of Dover. I gave this two considerations, firstly, if they’ve gone to the trouble of creating an immersive show, it seems wasteful not to sit in the café. Secondly, all things considered with the theme of the play itself, sitting in the white Cliffs of Dover and looking down on the cast and audience in the café seemed, shall we say, a little too on the nose.

ATG/The Young Vic have cleverly assigned seat types the seats in the various zones in the Afghan Cafe, which alert you to exactly what to expect from your chosen area. Whereas these alerts would usually let you know that you have a restricted view due to a pillar, they are now advising you that this seat is on a cushion onstage, that one is on a padded wooden bench, and that this other one is on a padded bench with a table. Most importantly, each seat alert tells you whether or not to expect back support from your chosen view. My days of being able to suffer a 2hr30 show on a narrow bench with no back are long gone, so if you’re anything like me, I highly recommend rows P and Q for a great view and a very comfortable back and posterior.

The performance begins long before the play does: cast mill about, the front of house wear hi-vis waistcoats like the volunteers in the play, you are offered chai tea, and receive flyers for a meeting in the Afghan Café to talk about possible eviction notices on the camp. You become a member of the community, without them having to even begin on the meat of the performance.

There has been an increase in visible artistic activism, or message led performance, and why not? People are angry. There are a lot of issues, and the news seems to be more concerned with telling us about royal weddings or sporting scores, than about the real problems that happening in the UK, and the world. Theatre-makers are using the tools at their disposal to engage with audiences, incite debate, encourage us to consider different perspectives, and ultimately, breed an empathy that is hard to find when simply reading about issues in the Metro on a morning commute.

Whether it be a comparison of two perspectives of the coughing major’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire? case (Quiz by James Graham​), or thrusting the audience into the middle of the Calais refugee camp and transforming the residents from nameless statistics into people to be empathised with (The Jungle by Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy), or a painfully honest glimpse into how a family copes with a cancer diagnosis (A Monster Calls directed and devised by Sally Cookson, based on the book by Patrick Ness); theatre is reinvigorated by a drive for candour and sincerity, and an unwillingness to shy away from uncomfortable subjects.

This tone, combined with an incredible set designed by Miriam Buether​, makes The Jungle one of the most vital plays of 2018. It’s running until 3rd November, so don’t miss your chance to see it.

It will be eye-opening, and it won’t leave you for some time.

The Jungle is playing at the Playhouse Theatre until 3rd November.

Find out how to book:


Recommendation: The next big thing

The Generation of Z

The Generation of Z

The down time of Summer 2015 has granted us here at AFOAF HQ with an opportunity to look ourtward and experience theatre without the pressure of looming production deadlines. As supporters and aficionados of new work, we have watched, and indeed taken part in, a wide variety of performances this year, ranging from the small and intimate, to the grand scale epics. We’ve seen everything from Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre and McQueen at Theatre Royal Haymarket, to The Generation of Z, the immersive post apocalyptic zombie experience at a dingy warehouse in East London, to Secret Cinema’s The Empire Strikes Back, short play festivals at Waterloo’s Vaults and the Lost Theatre, and comedy gems like Flick and Julie: Pop Up Penny Pinchers at Leicester Square Theatre. We even ventured into Russian theatre with Pavel Pryazhko’s flirtatious and fruity The Harvest, as translated by Sasha Dugdale for Soho Theatre.

The point is, we’ve had a busy summer. A busy, inspiring and invigorating summer. We’ve cheered on writers and actors from our previous productions and celebrated their successes with every curtain call.

So what have we learnt?

Ushers the Musical

Ushers the Musical

2015 has seen a fascinating climate for the Arts. New Musical theatre continues to struggle and excel in a teetering balance (we’re talking the likes of Made in Dagenham vs. Sunny Afternoon) whilst the success of new plays has raised the new battleground of gender imbalance (the summer has been generously dusted with articles quetioning this theme, find a few of them here) . Theatreland can be a fickle place, and for every boundary that is breached, a new horizon is sought out. Site specific and immersive theatre companies have been creeping to the forefront of the public eye in the last few years, with Punchdrunk’s incredible The Drowned Man and Secret Cinema’s Shawshank Redemption serving to permanently alter how audiences interact with the art form. Expectations have been raised, and the minds have been opened. The possibilities are limitless; in Ushers, the front of house staff sell you programmes, show you to your seats, and then burst into song, seamlessly blending reality and crushing the fourth wall. Last year, The Jetty in Greenwich hosted Shunt’s surreal The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face and returned this summer with Heartbreak Hotel, a show that continued the trend of luring audiences away from the safety of a proscenium setting, begging the question, “If audiences are comfortable with being taken out of their comfort zones, then what’s next?”

When Theatre Delicatessen and diferencEngine invited groups of eight to pull off a Heist, the result was a sell-out run and an outcry for more tickets. When You Me Bum Bum Train confirmed their return to London, the frantic demand for tickets crashed the servers, proving that audiences don’t even feel the need for ‘safety in numbers’ and are keen to literally dive into the unknown and go it alone.


As 2015 draws to a close, we continue to wonder what the next big thing will be. In what direction will the boundaries be pushed in 2016?

We might have had a glimpse of this courtesy of The Showstoppers, who are two weeks into their run of The Improvised Musical at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. Now that audiences have acclimatised to becoming a part of the cast, the next frontier seems to be the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of theatre, where we cease to be participants but instead blur the lines between creator and spectator. Delirious with power, the audience is captivated by the undeniably talented cast. And best yet, for two hours straight, not one person feels the need to play on their phone and check their social network feeds (an achievement that should not be taken lightly, as even Cumberbatch will agree).

We’re eager to know what you think, what’s the next big thing in theatre?