The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling, adapted by Tom Jackson Greaves
Watermill Theatre Company
Watermill Theatre Newbury

Philippa Hogg as Bagheera Guido Garcia Lueches as Tabaqui and Rowena Lennon as Balloo Credit: Pamela Raith
Karishma Young as Mowgli Credit: Pamela Raith
Alexander Bean Councillor Wolf, Philippa Hogg Bagheera and Peter Ashmore as Shere Khan Credit: Pamela Raith

The Watermill Theatre’s magical Christmas production of The Jungle Book, adapted and inventively directed by Tom Jackson Greaves, is filled with fun, whimsical adventures and is brimming with energy from a delightfully multitalented cast of actor-musicians.

A towering knotted tree fills the upstage area with a neon sign with the message, “You belong here, this is your place.” The theme of an outsider trying to find their place in society is strongly reinforced throughout.

Hanging colourful cloths and shawls adorn the stage and a handcart is centre-stage with lit blocks depicting the city towers, all creating a fantastical, immersive world.

The charismatic Guido Garcia Lueches is outstanding as Tabaqui the Jackal, the mysterious storyteller who charms the audience with his winning smile as he relates the tale of the lost cub, “looking for their family just like us.”

Karishma Young plays the vulnerable Mowgli in this gender-neutral casting who is desperate to find out “who I might be—when I can’t see anyone who looks like me?” She skilfully uses dance and physical theatre as a method of non-verbal communication and establishes a warm rapport with the audience.

Mowgli is brought up by the wolf pack and then adopted by the jungle animals Bagheera the panther (Philippa Hogg) and Baloo the Bear (Rowena Lennon) who are the surrogate guiding parents teaching the ways of the jungle to the young cub. Alexander Bean is imposing as the stately councillor Wolf and Kaa, the powerful python, and has a strong singing voice and stage presence. All are trying to protect Mowgli from the predator killer tiger, the suave yet dangerous Shere Khan, the splendid Peter Ashmore.

There is so much to enjoy in this family friendly production including the peanut disco party with the mischievous monkeys living it up to the full and the youngsters joining in with glee. It’s all great fun.

All six of the cast play a variety of musical instruments with immense skill and dexterity and Dom Coyote’s dynamic music is both catchy and poignant. Jasmine Swan’s wonderful colourful set and impressive costume designs are a delight and enhanced by Andrew Exeter’s emotive lighting.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable production, the perfect start to the Festive season. It richly deserved the enthusiastic applause from the audience and this production should be high on your Christmas wish list.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp

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