THE JUNGLE BOOK
by Rudyard Kipling adapted by Rosanna Lowe.
West Yorkshire Playhouse (Quarry Theatre) Quarry Hill LS2 7UP To 18 January 2014.
11am 14 Jan.
2pm 26-28, 30, 31 Dec, 2-5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18 Jan.
7pm 26-28, 30 Dec, 2-4, 8-11, 14-18 Jan.
Audio-described 9 Jan 7pm, 16 Jan 2pm.
BSL Signed 8 Jan 7pm.
Relaxed Performance: 14 Jan 11am.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 0113 213 7700.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 December.
Works best in its broad-brush strokes.
This is the kind of show this space was made to present. As the Quarry becomes a jungle, set and action might be confined to the stage space, but a sense of amplitude spreads across the large, high fan of seating.
The visual, and often musical, evocation of the Indian jungle in Liam Steel’s production reflects his choreographic expertise, as young Mowgli, the baby brought up by wolves, learns the laws of the jungle, and the pack, becoming a young person using his human intelligence in the kind of diplomatic intervention usually reserved for senior politicians of stable nations venturing into the human jungles of less fortunate countries.
The action is constant among and beneath the branches of Laura Hopkins’ set. The world Rudyard Kipling created from the Indian forest (something brought home, inspiring the Scout movement) is seen with a physical theatricality that shows the author’s understanding that an animal kingdom reflects aspects of human beings. Loving, reliable, dependable, self-seeking, vicious, irresponsible: all these types are laid-out before Mowgli and, as in human society, co-exist until some moment brings open conflict.
Yet it’s the particular detail of this natural world’s inhabitants and the sharpness of their conflicts that are often muffled amid the wider picture. It would be hard to miss the stolidly reliable Baloo in Daniel Copeland’s imposing, often stationery figure. But while the others are all capably played, the movement of Steel’s production rarely focuses on the detail which makes Kipling’s world.
There’s nothing wrong with Jan Knightley’s Akela, for example, but the challenge from the young Turks among the wolf-pack and the sense of her time being past are muted. And Shere Khan, the tiger who should cause sheer terror in his appearances till Mowgli takes him on, is little more than fractious.
More is made of Mowgli’s eventual contact with the humans who lost him as a baby, and the importance of fire is evident. It’s just that, enjoyable enough as a spectacle, and in its music, this never finally catches the spark of life which lies in Kipling’s detailed understanding of men and beasts.
Mowgli: Jacob James Beswick.
Buldeo: Colin Connor.
Baloo: Daniel Copeland.
Kaa: Cait Davis.
Shere Khan: Andrew French.
Messua: Shobna Gulati.
Tabaqui: Oliver Hoare.
Akela: Jan Knightley.
Bagheera: Ann Ogbomo.
Dulia: Anneika Rose.
Monkey: Paksie Vernon.
Raksha: Cath Whitefield.
Director: Liam Steel.
Designer: Laura Hopkins.
Lighting: Lee Curran.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Composer/Arranger: Niraj Chag.
Co-arranger/Musical Director: Michael Lovelock.
Puppets: Rachael Canning.
Fight director: Renny Keupinski.
Assistant directors: George Chilcott, Sadie Spencer.