*We were invited to The Jungle Book FOC, however, all opinions are my own
After a long day in the office on Wednesday, I dashed across a busy Manchester and over to the Lowry, Salford to attend the press night of The Jungle Book. I met up with Adam and, after literally sprinting from the nearby car park, we made it into the theatre with just two minutes to spare ahead of the 7pm showing – thank you rush hour traffic!
Now before I begin, I must state that is not the Disney-esque production that some of you may expect. Instead, what unfolded was a performance filled with mischief, simple yet glamorous costumes, and a modern undertone.
Originally written in 1894, Kipling’s beloved tale was firmly brought into the 21st century with a bold cast and a few key messages running throughout. As the story begins, we are introduced to familiar characters and each has a defined personality.
The lead character, Mowgli, was played perfectly by the emotive, strong, and talented Kezia Joseph. Bagheera the panther (Deborah Oyelade) was slick and sassy, a true champion of female empowerment and co-guardian of Mowgli. Shere Khan (Lloyd Gorman) was a confident and determined meat eater on a mission, complete with sequins; if you see the show, you’ll know what I mean! Balloo (Dyfrig Morris) is a larger-than-life, humourous Welsh bear (obvs) with plenty of jokes to keep the kids – and adults – entertained.
Alongside Kaa (Rachel Dawson), Akela (Tripti Tripuraneni), and the wolf pack, the small yet powerful cast of 11 did a sterling job of portraying the ultimate message that we all sleep under the same moon, regardless of race, gender or culture.
The pose of devious ‘Funky Monkeys’ added more humour and roguery to the plot, with toilet humour and slang. Original music was actually a welcome addition and every single cast member carried the tunes with ease – some even played instruments too!
The set was basic yet effective, with the plot unfolding on a rotating apparatus of ladders. The use of clever lighting and the sporadic addition of fire and smoke machines helped to set an understated jungle scene without distracting from the performance.
The Jungle Book is clearly a family show but not exclusively for kids as Adam and I had a marvellous evening watching this uplifting and heartwarming production.