Citizens Theatre, Glasgow Five stars A dread-locked and camouflage-trousered boy wanders through the auditorium and onto the stage at the opening of Nikolai Foster's epic take on Stuart Paterson's dramatisation of Rudyard Kipling's novel. When the boy takes off his headphones, stops checking his smart-phone, sniffs the air and howls to the heavens, it sets the tone for a hip and street-wise spectacle that's as far away from the Disneyfication of Kipling's story as you can get. The dread-locked boy is Mowgli, the original feral kid, who, stolen by ruthless tiger Shere Khan, is rescued by wolves and shown the ways of his new world by bear Baloo and panther Bagheera. Except here, Jack Lord's ageing pack leader Akela wields an electric guitar, Lanre Malaolu's Shere Khan is a blinged-up, fur-coated gangsta and Jorrell Coiffic-Kamall's Bagheera a be-shaded body-popping rapper. Elexi Walker's slinky Kaa the snake, meanwhile, brings to mind Bat-villainess Poison Ivy with the gymnastic flair of a WWE Diva, especially when she climbs amongst the audience in search of prey. Played out on designer Takis' huge wooden-platformed set draped in day-glo strips, and with tribal-sounding songs by BB Cooper and Barb Jungr sung and played by a nine-strong cast led by Jake Davies as Mowgli, this is a high-flying, metal-bashing and stylistically sexy rites of passage. In its highly physicalised and utterly serious delivery it more resembles a radical punk rock take on Shakespeare than a regular Christmas show, and is all the more captivating for it. With Justin Wilson's junk-yard puppets including a full-size mechanical bull, this is a dazzling experience that borders on world class. Get those jungle drums beating now.
The Herald, December 9th 2013 ends