The Jungle Book
Adapted for the stage by Stuart Paterson from the book by Rudyard Kipling
Birmingham Stage Company
Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
Rudyard Kipling noted that he 'got more pleasure out of writing it than anything I've done for a long time.' The young audience, more than a century later, at the Lyceum, Sheffield, sounded as though they would heartily endorse this 'pantomime' version, in which they were asked to join in and encourage the action at the right points.
The jungle scene was well displayed, thanks to designer Jacqueline Trousdale, and the effortless direction (Neal Foster) allowed the change from animals to humans to transfer speedily and smoothly in both directions. The animals themselves were truly remarkable, with satisfying costumes and credible movements as animals, and excellent interpretations as ballet dancers.
Baby Mowgli was one of several puppets, with Kaa the snake being the most original, frightening at times, threatening to eat the children in the front row, though no one rushed out in a panic. Mowgli grew through boyhood to manhood in the company of Akela, the wolf (Michael Wagg) and Baloo the bear (Matthew Weyland), and as a young man, with a gentle, but effective singing voice Mitesh Soni was reunited temporarily with his mother but forced to do battle with his old enemy, Shere Khan the tiger (Benedict Martin) and ending up wearing his tiger skin triumphantly to formulate the chorus, The Law of the Jungle, in ensemble.
The programme notes were enhanced by 'Join the Dots,' a picture to colour in information about the animals in real life and a 'Jungle words search' but these must have been for when the children got home because the evening was exciting enough to keep their interest.
Reviewer: Philip Seager