By Katie Bray
Akram Khan’s Jungle Book Reimagined offered its audience the opportunity to dive into into a water-ridden jungle in its short stint at The Lowry.
In an unexpected twist on Kipling’s classic tale, the show sees Mowgli, a young girl separated from her family by the rising oceans after man’s avarice destroys the world and decimates most of humanity. The animals that survive take in Mowgli and learn how to scavenge food from tins and mimic human culture through broadcasted segments from radio stations. Meanwhile, Mowgli is kidnapped by the Bandar-log primates, and Baloo and Bagheera are forced to seek help from an unlikely foe.
Set in the backdrop of an apocalyptic human wasteland with crumbling architecture and a human-hunter stalking the jungles, the show offers a charming yet bleak moral perspective on the ecological crisis we could be facing in years to come through the lens of the beloved tale.
While the show was initially a little strange with its jarring use of pre-recorded dialogue (which turned out to be a really inventive and interesting way to tackle the difficulty of managing dialogue and dancing simultaneously), the mixture of emotive and interpretive dance routines, gorgeous visual effects and angelic singing segments ultimately created a stunning and unforgettable experience.
Animalistic gestures, noises and body language created a realistic and believable interpretation of the animals, rather than using costumes and puppetry like in The Lion King. The standout performance and fluid facial and body language of Harry Theadora Foster as the lead Bandar-log was particularly captivating and allowed the audience to create a real emotional connection and resonance with the character, despite his later kidnapping of Mowgli.
The most astounding moments had to be when the main plot would slow, allowing for free interpretive and expressionistic dance segments which were truly breath-taking. These, alongside a simple yet effective set, filled with cardboard boxes used as décor, or later as segments of the coiling green-eyed snake. The show also included incredible visual set pieces with the jungle environment brought together by projections on transparent screens in front of and behind the performance area, where animals, flashbacks, architecture, oceans and more were delicately animated and interacted with the dancers.
Akram Khan’s Jungle Book Reimagined will next be visiting France and the Netherlands before finishing its European tour at The Marlowe, Canterbury.
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