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The Jungle Book

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

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