The Jungle Book WYP

The West Yorkshire Playhouse continues into the Christmas season with yet another spellbinding production, coming in the form of Rosanna Lowe’s new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book, with direction by Liam Steel.

Now, I know I always talk about the set of a production, but this one really deserves a mention. The design team at the West Yorkshire Playhouse has really gone to town on The Jungle Book. The rich set, full of sprawling leaves and swaying vines, truly brings a completely different world to the audience, and gives the wild actors a vibrant world to inhabit.

That brings me on nicely to the characters themselves, who do of course make the production. Their physicality is excellent, and their tightness as an ensemble really helps to convey the themes of the piece. Their costumes are fantastic, along with the superbly designed puppets of the wonderful jungle creatures, which pulse with energy and charm.

There is also an interesting integration of live music within the production, which helps to create special tempos and rhythms for the jungle’s inhabitants to move to, and enforces the themes and ideas in the piece too. The music creates an interesting soundscape that acts as a backdrop for the show, and also makes it more memorable for younger members of the audience.

With younger audience members in mind, there are times that I wondered how certain aesthetic elements of the production would be received. By this, I mean that I felt some of the character elements wouldn’t be understood as well by the young children. For example, the visual representation of antagonist village hunter Buldeo, who wears tight jeans, leather boots and an unzipped jacket, wouldn’t quite convey the attitudes of the character to the children. He is, however, portrayed well by Colin Connor, and is a great villain alongside Bengal tiger Shere Khan, played by Andrew French.

The second act of the production brings in several new elements which change the dynamics of the production. The humans behave in a very similar way to the animals from the first act, suggesting that our own animalistic qualities aren’t that different from the jungle’s inhabitants: the humans pave the way for a touching and honest representation of exclusion.

The Jungle Book is an incredibly energetic visual treat, with plenty of charm to tame both adults and children alike, and does Kipling’s original books a whole lot of justice.

The Jungle Book is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 18 January 2014. For more information and tickets, see the West Yorkshire Playhouse website