Ah, the Scottish Referendum. With the vote on Scottish independence only weeks away, you’d think there’d be more shows at this year’s Fringe looking to unpack some of the complexities surrounding one of the weightiest issues the country has faced in centuries. Sadly, this piece by young company Three Mugs of Tea (Annie Neat, Katie Milner, Rachael McDougall and Sammy-Jo Brunton ) has very little to say on the matter and, while it is ambitious in scope, it is ultimately let down by a glaring inconsistency of theatrical style.
Based, bizarrely, on The Jungle Book, The Jungle Referendum sees Mowgli trying to work out who to vote for – independence or better together? While pairing the indyref vote with Kipling’s tale offers some traction in terms of the confusion felt by voters, it does seem like a rather misguided motivation for an attempt at serious political engagement. In any case, the piece is not nearly bold enough in its satire, with the characterisation of prominent political figures leaving a lot to be desired. David Cameron, for example, is rendered by little more than a blue Tory tie and a RP accent.
The piece is sorely lacking any moments of genuine inventiveness, with Three Mugs of Tea mainly rehashing A-level textbook techniques with stern unoriginality. We get occasional glimpses of the personalities of the performers and in these moments it is clear that this is a young company flailing to discover a coherent theatrical style of their own.
The central problem with the piece though is one of its intended audience. While Kipling’s original story has proved appealing to audiences young and old, it was intended for a much younger audience than Three Mugs of Tea seem to be aiming for here. The Jungle Book sequences are undoubtedly the weakest and their inclusion appears incidental to the overall thrust of the production. Either the rest of the content needs to be geared specifically towards a younger audiences, or these puerile sequences need to be removed and replaced with something more considered.
This is a piece that could, with a bit of work, function quite well in a community setting. Indeed, given that it was created by community drama students there is every chance that this is the kind of audience it was intended for. Nevertheless, in the context of the Fringe, it lacks the necessary depth and sophistication to garner much in the way of plaudits. If I had to vote, it would be a resounding no.
Jungle Referendum is at C nova until 16 August. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.