Come From Away (Adelaide Season) – Theatre Review

Most people over the age of 20 would remember where they were that day. The day that changed the world in so many ways. That day was September 11, 2001, when two planes were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

I still remember that day so vividly. I was 11 years old and had a shocking ear infection, so I was at home sick, a very rare occurrence. I remember being upset that all I could see on TV was burning buildings when I just wanted to watch Pokémon! Looking back, it’s such a selfish problem, but I was so young and didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

As shockwaves rippled across the world, authorities jumped to action, one in particular was the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that shut down American airspace, forcing thousands of planes to be redirected, leaving travellers confused, afraid and stranded. 

Come From Away draws its inspiration from the remarkable true story of a small town in regional Canada. Thirty-eight planes with almost seven thousand passengers landed at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, an island on the east coast of Canada. 

The close-knit community of Gander and the surrounding towns welcome the ‘Plane People’ with open arms, putting aside their own issues and doing everything they can to find shelter, feed and make them all comfortable. For some, this kindness comes as a shock and becomes an eye opener to the self-centred city environments they live in.

I really loved the stage setting of this production. The back wall towers over the stage, made up of long horizontal rustic wooden planks, with slight gaps in between to allow light to shine through. In front of this wall, flanking the sides of the stage to the proscenium are a whole swag of tall ‘trees’ jutting from the stage, some with stage lighting attached. Framing this stunning scene is a large wooden cabin style proscenium. This absolutely captured the wooded country vibe and made me feel all warm and cosy.

The stage is adorned with a dozen or so chairs and a few tables. It starts as the inside of a Tim Horton’s Café but it is creatively transformed into other scenes just by moving and arranging the chairs in different configurations. They become planes, buses, shelters and so much more. I thought this was so creative and super effective. Paired with part of the stage that rotated, this made for a unique style of show like nothing I’d seen before.

I was extremely impressed with how well this cast worked together, it’s easy to see they have spent many hours rehearsing and fine tuning this show. Everyone plays a main character plus multiple minor characters, and through some smart and sneaky costume changes they transform flawlessly between characters. 

There are so many characters to love, the Newfoundlanders are all so friendly, funny, and warm. I loved Janice the news reporter, played by Manon Gunderson-Briggs. Her moments where she’d pop up on stage and then deliver her reports were often hilarious and well timed. David Silvestri is fantastic as Claude, the mayor of Gander and its surrounding towns. He had such confidence and a demeanour that suited the role so well!

The Plane People also have so many amazing characters, but the standout for me was Diane and Nick, played by Phillip Lowe and Natalie O’Donnell. From opposite sides of the globe, the two meet while stranded on their plane and a love story blossom before your eyes. It was so touching and amazing to see the relationship develop on the stage over the show’s 90 minute run time.

I could rave all day about how great this cast and the characters they portray are. They all work together so cohesively to tell these incredible stories and I honestly can’t fault them!

It would be a massive injustice to not give a huge shout out to the talented band that provide the music to this show. Performing live and partly hidden by the trees on stage. They have a beautiful folky and Celtic fusion of mandolins, fiddles, bodhran drums, guitar, and accordions. It creates a distinctly unique soundtrack that I absolutely loved. The songs are catchy and had my foot tapping throughout the show.

If it’s not entirely obvious yet, I absolutely loved Come From Away. I loved how different and unique it was, using some non-traditional and creative methods of lighting, the quirky music, and the captivating story. It is a story about love, fear, hope and heartbreak, but at its core it is about humility and community. Banding together to take care of thousands of strangers and not wanting anything in return. While its real events took place during a dark part of history, through the real gestures, and through this show, it shows us a brighter and more positive, cheerful side of it.

I’m truly thankful that these stories have been documented and are being told. It would be a travesty to let this hope and love to fade and be forgotten. So, do yourself a favour and see Come From Away. You’ll leave the building on a high and renewed faith in humanity!

Come From Away is playing now at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide for a strictly limited season until April 29th. 
For more information and ticketing, visit: https://comefromaway.com.au

Photography by Jeff Busby.

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