Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
There are two things to bear in mind when going to watch The Jungle Book:
- It has nothing to do with Disney
- It’s not made for you
This production of The Jungle Book was produced by The Children’s Touring Partnership, and the focus is very much on children. There’s little here for the grown-ups accompanying young ones.
This is the traditional tale of Mowgli the man-cub, who is raised by wolves, tutored by a bear and a panther, and hunted by a tiger.
The animals are played by humans in costume, many with a different regional accent. Baloo the bear is Welsh, there’s a Liverpudlian wolf, Bagheera the Panther has a Nigerian, and so it goes on. It’s a subtle way of displaying the show’s theme that, despite our differences, we’re all part of the same world. Unfortunately, that message gets increasingly heavy-handed, and when accompanied by some clumsy politicisation, it becomes grating.
This is a show of odd decision-making and missed opportunities.
The stage is dominated by an interesting climbing-frame set, but it’s sadly underutilised. There are countless ladders hanging from the rafters, begging for some monkey-swinging action; they remain unused.
Despite being aimed at children, the writing is more complex than it needs to be in places, but then veers into blunt unsubtlety in others.
There’s some serious talent here though. A handful of the songs created by composer Joe Stilgoe are wonderful earworms, particularly Mowgli’s theme song which is beautifully and powerfully sung by Keziah Joseph.
But, remember – it’s not made for you.
The Jungle Book is aimed squarely at kids, and the consistent belly laughs proved they loved it.
Find out more at http://junglebooklive.co.uk