Cheepiyak Theatre Company present their adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s well loved classic ‘The Jungle Book.’ At the charming venue of the Church Hill Theatre, the audience was nicely full of energetic babies and children and I waited to see what Monica Flory’s version would offer to this timeless tale.
I knew it would be a challenge for the group to hold the little ones’ attention for an hour, especially in a large theatre space where interaction isn’t particularly easy. However the young cast carried off the show with dedication and professionalism. Clearly they are very well rehearsed and spoke their lines perfectly and with real commitment. The story sticks to the same plot as the original but takes more influences from colonial India and the Hindu god Vishnu. This was communicated through the use of fantastic costumes, makeup and the physicality every cast member used to convey their animals. We follow little Mowgli, a man cub raised by wolves, as he grows up and realises he will one day need to face Shere Khan, the tiger who once hunted him as a baby.
Maggie Chafe played the part of Mowgli particularly well, her movements were light and animal like and she demonstrated real anguish at having to come to terms with the truth about Mowgli’s real family in the human realm of the village. Another mention must go to the narrators in the form of kites (eagle like birds) who were a presence through the majority of the show. They never once dropped out of character and their clear diction made it easier to understand what was happening in the action of the story.
However as a children’s show it needed to be a little more engaging at points. The script is clever but extremely detailed and large paragraphs of speech are often lost on tiny ears. It could do with being condensed and simplified in parts. I enjoyed the use of Indian music in parts of the show and I feel this could have been used even more at times. I’m sure many of the parents and children were hoping for some recognisable songs or even some original music to excite the audience but this wasn’t the case.
A great effort from this young theatre company who show extreme promise and dedication to their art. A charming show, but not for particularly fidgety children or very young ones.