The Concrete Jungle Book

It is often difficult to adapt such well-known, childhood tales into innovative experiences for an audience. You run the risk of predictability and repackaged morals in the form of youth slang and modern clothes. HighRise Theatre (in association with artsdepot) flirted with these elements in their hip hop theatre take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but their astonishing energy, infectious grins and vocal talent couldn’t help but put a smile on everyone’s face.

High-level energy of the rap and technical skill elevated it out of just another boring interpretation of an old classic.

Each well-worn character of Kipling’s classic was injected with contemporary sparkle in this witty, well-written narrative of a fostered teenager who runs away to the streets to seek a better life. From Lieutenant Kaa to (King) Louis Slippers, the scrutiny invested into each personality’s urban counterpart was obvious. The continuous flow of hip hop beats ensured continuity in the narrative, and innocent glitches only made it endearing. The company successfully delivered a story which was easy to follow but diverted from the original in imaginative and crafty ways.

Animalistic characteristics were employed by each performer throughout their many roles and physically led us through the narrative, from the brazen, larger-than-life Balloo, to the swinging, swaggering monkeys of Louis Slippers’ crew. Their subtle costume additions (a bucket hat with ears, a black panther’s tracksuit) and their committal to the embodiment of the animals meant they delicately conveyed the famous characters’ key traits. The physical aspect was clearly draining on the performers, but credit where credit’s due – they impressed with their passionate vitality.

The rap elements which drove the performance were demanding to say the least; fast-paced and sharp, the performers never slipped up. At times the lyrics lacked innovation and bordered upon repetition at points where the narrative became predictable, but the hearty vocals and doses of humorous dialect and slang redeemed any duplication.

If infectious beats and lyrical prowess hadn’t remained in control of the show, it would have fallen flat in places, but the high-level energy of the rap and technical skill elevated it out of just another boring interpretation of an old classic. Inevitability, the narrative slipped into predictability but the enthusiastic delivery kept it raw which paired pleasantly with the urban tone.

Reviews by Yasmin Duggal

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The Concrete Jungle Book is a brand-new piece of hip hop theatre that catapults Rudyard Kipling's classic story and characters into the streets of inner-city Britain. As the jungle's trees become tower blocks, Mo(wgli) navigates his way through relationships, unstable housing conditions and hostile creatures, trying to find the father figure he has always longed for. With live rap music, spoken word and high-energy physicality, HighRise Theatre present The Jungle Book like you've never imagined.

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