Flying High Theatre Company’s adaptation of
A recommendable adaptation for both those who are new to the material and those who know it well.
The script is an amalgamation of the original Kipling short stories “Mowgli’s Brothers” and “Kaa’s Hunting”. These tread an ever-so slightly darker path than the Disney version and the suitability of the production is rated PG for those aged five and up accordingly. Parents need have no fear however of their children being too frightened by the performance. Indeed, one girl left her front row seat only to sit on the floor and be much closer to the action. The script overall is perfectly usable, if not particularly mind-blowing.
The show lists itself under physical theatre and music, although the former is far more prominent than the latter. One song occurred about half an hour into the production and that seems to be it. The physical theatre however was most entertaining, with all the cast fully committing to their animal personas. The ensemble performing as monkeys was a particular highlight, with creative elements of dance and comedy cleverly interwoven to successfully entertain audience members of all ages.
More effort could have perhaps been made to outwardly state what creature each actor was for the benefit of children unfamiliar with the source material. This was particularly the case for the panther Bagheera, as a more exotic animal that younger children may not know of instinctively. Indeed, this reviewer must confess to having to sit back and try to remember what she was meant to be. Similarly, the decision to split Kaa into three actors felt a bit odd; it was potentially confusing and did not really add much. One actor single-handedly provided the hypnotising dance number and one actor felt like it would have been sufficient for the part.
However, the acting as a whole was largely impressive. Bagheera gave the strongest individual performance of the afternoon, closely followed by Mowgli and Baloo. As a trio, they effectively and confidently carried the show to its conclusion. Some members of the larger ensemble with smaller parts seemed a bit overawed by their situation, but all get marks for effort and for pulling the show together by the end.
There were some shaky elements to the tech, such as noticeable dark spots in the general cover as actors traversed the stage. However, The Jungle Book is ultimately a recommendable adaptation for both those who are new to the material and those who know it well.