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The Jungle Book – Birmingham Hippodrome

Choreographer: Kendra J Horsburgh

Director: Poppy Burton-Morgan

Reviewer: John Kennedy

The company’s name – Metta, playing on meta-theatre – is teasing and naughtily succinct. Boldly going beyond – getting it out there – giving it up on to the streets. Break-dancing down the fourth-wall, reimagining it as a liberating, multi-media, graffiti splashed, canvas carnival of anthropomorphic animals let loose. And with gob-smack, derring-do dexterity excellence, this show ignites the cockles of the heart with nuclear passion and moments of stupefied wonder.

This coming of age parable, this riotous ritual of multi-platform performing arts is a seventy-minute circus of outrageously over the Big Top delight. Metta Theatre has gathered themselves an ensemble pack of, paradoxically, both young at heart but near immortal wild-card gifted grifters.

Spoiler alert – Dr Who blowhard gender regeneration gamers – Mowgli is a girl! Keep up here and be prepared for a ‘Beat-loving bin man Baloo, graffiti artist Bagheera and a skateboarding Wolf crew.’  The lyrical pastiched prologue teasingly referencing the Disney animation’s Bare Necessities – (and not before time) soon begins to make sense.

Tonight, Metta is having its cake and eating it too – exceedingly exceeding all Mr Kipling’s great expectations. No political correct affectation hokum here though. The wily guiled, seamless gender transition snaps, crackles and Hip-Hop Raps with wry, sly style woven within an exquisite and thoroughly modern milieux.

Mowgli, Alfa Marks, an orphan abandoned to the merciless predatory urban concrete Jungle, is adopted as cub by proxy, by skateboard wolf-pack leader, Akela, the ever versatile and body-popping Matt Knight.

The fly-postered set is tagged with Shere Khan motifs glowing under dystopian UV lighting, a potent cypher of his spaying territorial dominance. He is the alpha tiger – absolute Jungle juicer – celebrated with double-jointed malfeasant articulation by Kaner Scott. Everybody’s Bond villain nightmare made true.

Beat battle balletic set-pieces and mischievous bad ass monkey-business shrewdly complement Mowgli’s live and let’s be sly funk/mime driven lesson in  jungle law. They bristle with lithesome, intoxicating panache. It’s the evolutionary message of the survival of the wit – not just the fit.

Nathalie Alison’s mesmeric near impossible pole-trancing weaving spells as Python Kaa are jaw-drop incredulous, as is her and Mowgli’s penultimate suspended rope and hoop pas de deux gymnastic aerial erotique. Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man perfect circle aesthetic solicits enticing reimaginings after seeing this – you have been warmed.

The epilogue, grounded firmly in the vocabulary of the genre’s vernacular incites – If you ain’t got a voice/you ain’t got a choice. Prosaic perhaps in its simplicity – but universal in its empathic certainty. Uplifting, outstanding, the perfect recipe for soul kitchen gluttony.

Runs until 22 July 2017 | Image: Richard Davenport

Choreographer: Kendra J Horsburgh Director: Poppy Burton-Morgan Reviewer: John Kennedy The company's name - Metta, playing on meta-theatre – is teasing and naughtily succinct. Boldly going beyond - getting it out there - giving it up on to the streets. Break-dancing down the fourth-wall, reimagining it as a liberating, multi-media, graffiti splashed, canvas carnival of anthropomorphic animals let loose. And with gob-smack, derring-do dexterity excellence, this show ignites the cockles of the heart with nuclear passion and moments of stupefied wonder. This coming of age parable, this riotous ritual of multi-platform performing arts is a seventy-minute circus of outrageously over the Big…

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