Fresh and inventive Jessica Swale’s bold adaption of THE JUNGLE BOOK brings Rudyard Kipling's classic up-to-date

The Jungle Book UK Tour

Fresh, inventive and heart-warming, Jessica Swale’s bold adaption of THE JUNGLE BOOK brings Rudyard Kipling’s classic bang up-to-date

Forget Disney, there is a new THE JUNGLE BOOK in town and boy does it swagger and swing.

Based on the Rudyard Kipling family classic, THE JUNGLE BOOK tells the coming-of-age story of Mowgli, a man cub raised by wolves in the jungle. With the help of his animal friends, including Bagheera the panther, Balloo the bear and Kaa the python, Mowgli outwits the cruel and powerful tiger Shere Khan and learns the law of the jungle.

Fresh, inventive and incredibly heart-warming, Jessica Swale’s bold, new adaption of THE JUNGLE BOOK dances to a very different tune to the Disney film we all know and love. Focusing on diversity, Kipling’s much criticised racist overtones are long forgotten in this production and ideas of family and community are given a 21st-century spin. Here, man-cub Mowgli is played by a young woman and raised by a panther, a bear and two wolves in true “modern day family” style. When boy wrestles with his identity, he also learns – with a helpful nudge from Deborah Oyelade’s fiercely feminist Bagheera – that there are no rules when it comes to belonging.

In terms of style, Director Max Webster enjoys a loose stylistic rein on the production, making the most of Peter McKintosh’s clever revolving set which suggests a jungle of the urban variety with its corrugated-iron backdrop, suspended ladders and scaffolding. Shere Khan stalks the jungle in an Elvis-style leather jump suit while the wolves hunt around four-legged on crutches and double as shaggy, shade-wearing musicians. The opening sequence in which Mowgli grows from a baby into a boy is also done exceptionally well, using simple puppetry and beautiful choreography.

Keziah Joseph 'Mowgli'. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Keziah Joseph leads the small but talented cast as Mowgli, giving heart and soul to the man club searching for his place in the world. Deborah Oyelade’s shines as the strong and sassy Bagheera while Dyfrig Morris contrasts perfectly as the easy and laidback Balloo. Lloyd Gomes also stands out for his sly and slick performance as Shere Khan, his gravely vocals making him the perfect  villain of the piece.

But it is Joe Stilgoe’s vibrant score that truly stands out, adding a grown up slant to the story and pushing the narrative forward without a Bare Necessities in sight.

Whether you’re four or 40, this lively and inventive production of THE JUNGLE BOOK is sure to win you over, bringing Kipling’s wild and fun tale of family, belonging and identity to life.

5 out of 5 stars

THE JUNGLE BOOK runs at Liverpool Playhouse Theatre until 17 February and tours nationally, visiting Salford’s The Lowry from 2 to 6 May 2018.