It was great to arrive at The Grand on a sunny spring evening and see large numbers of young people waiting to get in. The reason – Jessica Swale’s adaptation of The Jungle Book, a co-production between the Children’s Touring Partnership and Royal and Derngate, Northampton.
The fundamental story will be familiar to many through the Disney animated feature film. Mowgli the man cub battles for survival in this heart-warming coming-of-age story about a child raised by wolves in the jungle. With the help of Mowgli’s animal friends, including Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear and Kaa the python, Mowgli outwits the cruel and powerful tiger, Shere Khan, and learns the law of the jungle.
The similarities end there though as it is rather more naturalistic. It isn’t really played for laughs most of the time, though Baloo is unsurprisingly jovial and the monkey troop are full of slapstick toilet humour.
The set includes a number of ladders which are used, and even larger numbers that aren’t. This might not sound in keeping with a jungle theme, but it generally works very well. The difference between two legged and four legged creatures, without giving too much away, is also effective.
Clearly it is a production aimed primarily at children (with an advisory warning that they should be over six years of age) and needs to be evaluated in that context. My assessment was that whilst the many children in the audience weren’t splitting their sides they were universally quiet and attentive, and I think they were generally absorbed and getting a lot from it.
The Jungle Book runs until this Saturday, with performances every evening and matinees Thursday and Saturday. If you or your children are fans of the original Rudyard Kipling stories it’s very much recommended, with several strong performances and a striking finale.
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