The Jungle Book, Theatre Review. Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10

Cast: Rachel Dawson, Diogo Gomes, Lloyd Gormon, T. J. Holmes, Ruri James, Avita Jay, Keziah Joseph, Chipo Kureya, Dyfrig Morris, Deborah Oyelade, Tripti Tripuraneni.

The life of a writer and their creation is often seen as being so intertwined that when the reader takes a more interested look, a more critical eye over what they are being implored to read, often the join seems to flush, that whatever the writer of the novel has written must be what they believe in their own hearts.

For Rudyard Kipling especially, his life and work have been the subject of debate, sometimes forgiving, often seen as a dark stain on literature; it is an argument that sometimes is destructive to the beauty in the prose and one especially that has seen the much loved The Jungle Book volumes come under intense scrutiny and with eyes that were not products of the environment that Mr. Kipling drew upon.

To capture the heart of a much loved book, to see it explode and smoulder with passion on the stage, then that is too honour with great respect the author and the work completely. The sheer scope of the endeavour by the cast, by the writer of the production, Jessica Swale, and the incredibly gifted shape of the music by Joe Stilgoe is one that undoubtedly would have been unimaginable in the days when poet and author Rudyard Kipling made good the tales of the jungle, of humanity’s balance with nature in the form of the young man-cub Mowgli and the animals that called the jungle their home.

Yet it is to modern day thought that we are able to see the stories in a new light and without the fuzzy nostalgia associated with Disney, it is in the dance, of song and the layering of a good and truthful respective to which this particular production of The Jungle Book works.

Jessica Swale takes the idea of the animal further, the personality first envisaged by the author and then in Disney’s celebrated feature length cartoon, is given a fresh set of ideas, the very best and worst of Humanity’s prints and shaping of the world in their image and perceived ideals and at the downfall of many creatures that have shared their world with us, is framed with sincerity and drama, jealousy, power, dominated and the frightened, the bluster, the joyous, the laughter, the love, and the hoped for compassion we all seek, is imprinted with great care in this production at the Liverpool Playhouse.

With superb performances by Dyfrig Morris as Balloo, Deborah Oyelade as Bagheera and a truly terrific sense of passion for the role of Mowgli emanating from Keziah Joseph, The Jungle Book is a wonderfully imagined sense of theatre, one that gets under the skin in true style and remains resolute in its purpose to educate as well as entertain. A playful and lovingly presented moment in theatre in Liverpool

Ian D. Hall