The Jungle Book

Adapted by Andrew Pollard
Dukes Playhouse
Williamson Park, Lancaster

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Jason Patel as Mowgli Credit: Gabi Dawkins & Jess Turton

Amid lush greenery, on a warm sunny evening here, it doesn’t require too much imagination to believe you’re in the land of The Jungle Book—even as a milk float rolls in to pump authentic animal noises into the sound system...

And when a radio-controlled crocodile cruises the surface of the lake (much to the indifference of the local ducks, or a couple of scene-stealing seagulls), all is in place for the Dukes Theatre’s latest promenade play in Lancaster’s Williamson Park.

Back in 1995, when they last adapted Rudyard Kipling’s story for outdoor performance, there was a cast of 12 AND three musicians. In a sign of the times, there’s now just five performers (Lisa Howard, Pushpinder Chani, Jason Patel, Helen Longworth and Purvi Parmar) but to their credit they quick-change costumes and characters at a dizzying pace, in a succession of al fresco changing rooms.

Their speed is matched by writer Andrew Pollard’s adaptation of the story of Mowgli and his animal friends and enemies. In just four 25-minute scenes, he distils the essence of the tale, without being able to delve to any great depth.

Not that you would find many younger members of its audience complaining. They are served a carnival of animal capers and confrontations, much of it bordering on pantomime antics. Indeed, there are more flatulent gags here than you might decently expect at Christmas time. Miss one and there’s another along in moments. Oh yes there is...

Composer Ziad Jabero delivers a suite of original songs, but you could trade one or two of them for a little more clarity to the characters, and certainly a lot more concentration on their movement—and the audience’s sightlines.

Shepherding 400+ theatregoers from lakeside; to glade; beneath Jimmy Williamson’s towering monument; and on to a fiery climax in the Dell, is nevertheless done with the mastery learned in more than 30 years of these always-entertaining performances.

Several thousand more infant imaginations will be fired up here.

Reviewer: David Upton