Graeme Messer’s direction of Stuart Paterson’s adaptation was well paced and showed the darker side of Mowgli’s trials in both the jungle and the village most effectively. The songs by B.B. Cooper and Barb Jungr kept the action moving along splendidly and were well choreographed by Kenn Oldfield. The finale evoked memories of The Lion King – not a criticism by any means – and the cast left the stage to a rousing cheer.
The show’s strongest points are in acting and design. I particularly liked the use of puppets: as backing singers; as a large buffalo; to introduce the young Mowgli and most especially in presenting Kaa, the python, who was excellently played by Suzanne Ahmet – a great singing voice and wonderfully serpentine movement! A simple set of a number of moveable pieces took us around the jungle, into the hidden city and to the village of the herdsmen – particular congratulations to the simian scene shifters! Lighting was effective and unfussy and helped to create an excellent atmosphere – somewhat darker in tone and mood than the Disney cartoon, and all the better for that.
Performances that really stood out in a very strong ensemble cast were Mark Holden as a loveable Baloo; Ben Redfern as Tabaqui the hilariously psychopathic jackal and henchman to Shere Khan – played in real panto villain style by Peter F. Gardiner; the previously mentioned Suzanne Ahmet as a fantastic python and Alex De Marcus who doubled the loyal Bagheera with the boastful hunter Buldeo excellently. King of the jungle, however, was Tony Hasnath as Mowgli. His energetic and enthusiastic playing really made the character live- a splendid performance in a cracking good show.