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21st March 2024

Come From Away press launch: A community show for Christmas

A special preview of The Lowry’s non-Christmassy Christmas show inspired by remarkable true events from 9/11
Come From Away press launch: A community show for Christmas
Credit: Phil Tragen @ The Lowry

I was lucky enough to see a preview of The Lowry’s Christmas show for 2024: Come From Away. The Broadway hit made its way to the West End in 2019 and is now embarking on its first-ever UK tour. The show tells the true story of Gander, a small Newfoundland community that took in around 7000 strangers or ‘Come From Aways’ after their planes were forced to land there following the events of 9/11. The cast reenacted real people, such as a pilot of one of the planes, a mother trying to contact her firefighter son, and the islanders who rallied around to support them.

Whilst The Lowry’s Christmas shows are never very Christmassy in a traditional sense, this play does embody a sense of love and community that we often celebrate at Christmas. The show isnt saying anything particularly political; it simply encourages compassion and unity, making it a safe choice for a family trip to the theatre.

I got to see the cast perform two songs from the show: ‘Me and the Sky’ and ‘Welcome to the Rock’; both energetic numbers that really captured the essence of the play as a whole. Anyone who has heard of Come From Away will likely have listened to the opening number: ‘Welcome to the Rock’. This is where we are introduced to several of the islander characters, and it sets the tone of community spirit for the rest of the play. ‘Me and the Sky’ is about one of the women who flew planes on 9/11 and her journey to become the first female American pilot. The lyrics of that song are taken almost directly from an interview with the woman herself and punctuate what comes across as a very powerful, heartfelt, musical reflection on her life as a pilot.

Come From Away relies on versatile use of props, using ‘chair-ography’ to transport its audience between planes and pubs with the movement of just a few chairs. Movement like this gives the play a real dynamic energy; it makes the practical and everyday beautiful. The costumes are very simple as they represent real, ordinary people who became heroes when it was needed of them. One thing that really helps bring the characters to life is the distinctive accent that the islanders have. Mark Dugdale (The Book Thief), who plays Kevin T, Garth & others, spoke about how difficult it is to hold back his own Irish accent because the Newfoundland accent has such a strong Irish influence.

Similarly, Bree Smith (Titanic The Musical UK tour and The Color Purple UK tour), who plays Hannah, amongst other characters,  talked about how much practice it takes to switch instantly from a New York to Newfoundland accent when changing character. Despite this, the cast makes it seem effortless, and you feel like youre watching a Newfoundland community. If you have never heard a Newfoundland accent, you’re in for a real treat.

I think Greater Manchester is a great place to perform this show. Manchester’s impact on one’s identity can be likened to how the islanders seem united by their good nature. I do not doubt that Manchester will warmly welcome Come From Away. It should be a very successful Christmas run at the Lowry in Salford.

Come from Away will be at The Lowry from December 3 until January 5, 2025; touring the UK until then. Tickets can be found on The Lowry’s website.

Written by Enid Kirk

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