Rudyard Kipling’s family classic has been reimagined for stage by Olivier award winning Jessica Swale, with music by Joe Stilgoe and directed by Max Webster.

A tale rooted in the themes of belonging and identity, Jessica Swale writes The Jungle Book as a beautifully heart-warming show, perfect for a child audience. Mowgli the man cub (Keziah Joseph), who was raised by wolves in the jungle, battles for survival. With the help of his animal friends, including Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear and Kaa the python, Mowgli outwits the cruel and powerful tiger, Shere Khan, and learns the law of the jungle.

With Kipling’s iconic characters that we all know and love, The Jungle Book provides an endearing message through toe-tapping music. Though it’s enjoyable during the show, it’s forgettable once you leave the auditorium – nice lyrics but not as catchy as needed. Joseph makes a wonderful Mowgli, leading many of the songs with her powerful voice and creating an unmissable stage presence – Swale’s adaptation of the character shows growth throughout, from a lost and vulnerable child to a brave, strong young person.

The Jungle Book Theatre Royal Plymouth

Keziah Joseph

Other characters are less complex and very much catered to provide laughs for the young audience. Lloyd Gorman portrays a panto-esque villain as Shere Khan in his spangley bodysuit and wicked laugh; Dyfrig Morris plays a very Welsh interpretation of Balloo the bear, with silly tongue- in- cheek humour to get the kids laughing. A firm favourite of my ten-year-old cousin is the group of monkeys, or ‘Funkies’, a squad of wannabe gangster characters. The children in the audience crease with laughter at their every move – the characters are a success in their eyes.

The most impressive aspect of The Jungle Book is the design by Peter Mckintosh. A revolving stage presents a tall apparatus set made from ladders that the actors utilise throughout the show, climbing up and down, jumping to and fro. More ladders hang from the ceiling and are projected with green light, to give the impression of jungle vines. The set is simple but hugely effective in providing a versatile backdrop to the jungle story.

The Jungle Book Theatre Royal Plymouth

Overall, The Jungle Book is visually enjoyable, but the narrative lacks challenge or complexity. However it carries a nice message with humour for the young audience – a great production to take the kids for a fun evening out.

 

 

★★★☆☆

The Jungle Book ran at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 7 April 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.