I went into this production with absolutely no knowledge of what was to come, except, of course, that the Jungle Book stories and the Disney film adaptation were a rite of passage when I was growing up. I did, however, have expectations of how I hoped the play would be: as scary, dark, mysterious, amusing and enthralling as the books it has sprung from. It wasn’t that I was let down by the performance, as I could see that the play was written with a very specific audience in mind and seemed to follow a certain ‘children’s play’ formula. Being obviously aimed at young children, the show had an almost pantomime feel in places, with Baloo as a Widow Twanky-style dame and Mowgli needing audience participation to help him find the cheeky monkeys. Whilst this all worked well, it seemed a shame to me that the darkness of the book wasn’t given more room to come through: some of the fun could have been dampened so that we could glimpse the real harsh jungle law.
The songs were a very worthwhile part of the production as they changed the pace of the action, and kept the young audience involved with some catchy tunes and dances. The monkey rap and dance was amusing and, being very rhythmic, it was strangely fitting for monkeys, bringing out their lawless, mob-style character.
Samuel Hargreaves, playing Mowgli, really stood out as a particularly impressive singer. More generally, I was impressed by Hargreaves’ relentless stamina in his performance: he was powerful, convincing, joyous even in his lead role and is a very exciting young actor.