by Julie Wallis twitter.com/Nicenic63
The Jungle Book at Birmingham Hippodrome
Rudyard Kipling’s tale Jungle Book is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 22nd of July and is quite like any other production of Jungle Book that you are ever likely to see.
The story of man cub Mowgli, who is found and raised by the Jungle animals is famous enough to need no other synopsis. But performed by meta theatre in a superbly unique way.
There is very little in the way of spoken dialogue, but that’s not to say there is no dialogue, it’s predominantly sung or rapped. The change in dialogue is not the only big difference, the setting is more of an urban Jungle, with Baloo – Stefano Addae being a beat loving bin man. The wolves arrive on skateboards to find baby Mowgli who has been stolen from her mother by Shere Khan Kaner Scott and immediately take the young girl into the safety of their pack to raise her as one of their own. Bagheera Kloé Dean, the panther who is also as protective of Mowgli as Baloo is, is seen running around with a spray can spraying graffiti and the vulture is portrayed as a homeless street urchin. It is very different in terms of the setting, even though the story is still the same, it’s the same but different.
I loved this new reworking of an old classic, and I was immediately enthralled by the dance and the lighting. The stage is very stripped back, with almost no set other than some railings in the background and some splendid lighting. In truth, there is so much going on on stage, that I barely noticed the set or lack of. I did have my jaw on my chest though at some of the dance moves. There really are a lot of Wow! moments.
This is mostly a dance extravaganza, there are not many moments where the audience is not being spoilt with one form or another of dance. Besides dance there is also a contortionist, a pole dancing snake, some Ariel acrobatics, a puppet toddler, and a ballet dancing dress salesman. I did say it’s very different.
In this production Mowgli is a girl child, rather than a man cub, I don’t think there are any female characters in the original so it’s very much bought up to date with the inclusion of a female lead. Mowgli is played by Alfa Marks and she is also responsible for the aerial choreography. A large hoop comes down and Mowgli is instantly up in the jungle canopy and making my heart go into my mouth with her daredevil antics, just like a child Mowgli sees no danger In swinging and dropping from the creepers and branches high above her, or was she partaking in a bit of parkour in this updated version?
Kaa (Nathalie Alison) makes for a very convincing snake when she winds her way up and down a lamp post with a gravity defying pole dance routine. I have done a little pole dancing and I appreciate just how tough it is, but Nathalie made her routines look effortless. Nathalie also joins Alfa on the aerial hoop in a sort of circus-ey, dance come acrobatic duet.
I can’t review this show without giving Shere Khan, Kaner Scott, a mention, he is the wicked tiger that wants to devour Mowgli. Dressed in a tiger print cape and a baseball cape with his initials on, Shere Khan wows the audience with some sick* contortionism. *I know the youth of today use the word sick to mean great or fab. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
If you have a family member that loves street dance then they will love this jaw dropping show. I loved it and my jaw dropped so many times. I promise you will never see another show like it. I mean have you ever seen anything else that incorporates Street dance with the Charleston, ballet, pole dancing, aerial acrobatics and a bit puppetry?
Book tickets to Jungle Book at Birmingham Hippodrome here: birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/jungle-book
Julie was invited to see Jungle Book at Birmingham Hippodrome on behalf of #BrumHour and probably sang The Bare Necessities whilst writing this honestly held review.