Writer: Rudyard Kiping
Adaptor: Jessica Swale
Music: Joe Stilgoe
Director: Max Webster
Reviewer: Daryl Holden
The Jungle Book is a tale that everyone experiences at some point in their younger years. For most, it is through the Disney film of the same name, which is now arguably more well-known than the original Rudyard Kipling books.
This is where The Children’s Touring Partnership come in, aiming to address just that issue, they bring a family orientated, pantomimic, musical adaptation of the classic to life on stage. Here you won’t find any songs about the Bare Necessities. Instead, we get an impressive original score composed by Joe Stilgoe, providing the rhythmic backing for some extremely well-delivered songs about acceptance, finding your way and change.
And it is those core values that make up the backbone of this piece. Adaptor Jessica Swale has done an impressive job of combining these important issues with a medium suitable for audiences made up of adults and children alike, without losing any of the integrity or importance. And although one or two comments garner groans at their lack of subtlety more than others, The Jungle Book otherwise makes careful work in delivering an entertaining show, without shoving its message down its audience’s throats.
Of course, a good script isn’t all that makes up a good show, it is also the cast performing it. Luckily, The Jungle Book seems to have struck gold here with a collection of actors that are fully invested intis world and keep the fluidity of the piece going. Each are musically gifted, with most being able to play an instrument and sing at the same time, which is no small feat. When this cast come together and sing it resembles something that should be on the West End. There are no dropped notes, every harmony is expertly developed and the lyrics are easy enough to understand so that the kids can sing along if they wish.
All of this, topped off with slick choreography and an intricately designed and well-incorporated revolving set made up of wooden ladders and beams that allows for different playing levels and means of movement culminate in a show that is a true showcase of extraordinary talent and skill.
There isn’t a lot wrong with this show, save for some monkeys, aptly titled “funkeys” that seem like the result of a google search titled “what do kids like these days”, but even then the actors deliver performances that are so invested and watertight that it really doesn’t annoy you as much as you might think. The only other problem is that the main drama of Mowgli – superbly played by Keziah Joseph- facing down Shere Kahn is short lived and a bit disappointing because you feel like it could be so much more.
Even with its pitfalls, you’re willing to let them pass because this piece never sells itself as the next Shakespearean drama. Instead, it’s a family-friendly, visually impressive, toe-tapping, feel-good show with enough humour, emotion and talent to keep both you and the kids happy throughout the run time while also providing a subtle social commentary, and that’s exactly what it needs to be.
Runs until17 February 2018 | Image: Manuel Harlen