We lucked out! On the day we saw The Jungle Book, the sun was high in the sky. The weather was stunning (and hot almost to the point of being oppressive) but that’s the gamble you have to take when booking in at the BOAT. It’s an elemental experience, much like being on the high seas, or in the Asian jungle.
The performers’ energy was electric
Marching along singing the tune of Colonel Hathi’s March transforms a pleasant stroll through the lush gardens of Dyke Road Park to more of a purposeful stomp to the wonderful BOAT.
Brighton’s Open Air Theatre is the UK’s newest amphitheatre, built in a classical style, although its huge wooden joists evoke a seafaring vessel submerged in the green landscape. BOAT was the brainchild and legacy of Adrian Bunting who wanted the audience to feel part of the show, and this was the perfect venue for an immersive production of The Jungle Book.
More reliable than the weather is a JW Productions show: as ever, it was great fun, action packed and totally original. Even without the highly-loved, ever familiar, foot tapping classics of the 1967 movie, their production of The Jungle Book was a pleasure, particularly for the pint-sized punter.
In the round, with animal characters emerging from all angles, it was thrilling to feel immersed in the sights and sounds of the jungle. Keeping most costumes subtle kept the fear of the tiger at bay; there were no pantomime predators here. Shere Khan growled his way into character, dressed as a Victorian explorer with only a simple striped trim. If this was a comment on the dangers of mankind, it was a point made without a moralistic sledgehammer. King Louie, King of the Swingers looked remarkably like the King of the Pelvic Swing, donning Elvis’s quiff and a suit of white and gold.
All the performers’ energy was electric, although our highlight was undoubtedly the performing monkeys, wolves and village children all part of an acting troupe with star quality. Their singing, dancing and acting in each of their guises was entrancing, especially for the youngest audience members who were enthralled. When the kids sang together the sound was pitch perfect. Our only gripe was the lack of amplified sound as the original songs deserved to be heard without straining.
As an aficionado of the Walt Disney classic, did I detect a nod to the Emperor Tamarin monkey who appears to tease King Louie during I Wanna Be Like You? Details like that ensured each generation of the audience disembarks from the BOAT very happy indeed.