Pros: Full of energy, with a great message at its core.
Cons: Some unnecessarily prolonged moments, and a constant beat of similar style music.
Not too far from The London Eye lies London Wonderground, a venue I have visited only once before. It is certainly impressive, owing to its carnival-like environment and colourful decorations lining the Spiegeltent. Here, Metta Theatre have taken on Kipling’s The Jungle Book, looking to provoke and challenge the politics of the piece.
In this retelling Kipling’s classic tale has been transformed into a hip-hop, dance-theatre, narrative-circus show. It takes place in the urban jungle where Shere Khan is a rapper, and the wolves are embodied by a pack of skateboarders. The story follows Mowgli (Natalie Nicole James) and her journey to find a place in the world after she is separated from her mother and accepted into the wolf-pack.
Throughout, the show highlights the abilities of the cast, playing to their strengths and also pushing them through the variety performance aspects. The circus elements such as Mowgli swinging on hoops, and Kaa (Nathalie Alison) doing impressive stunts on the Chinese pole looked amazing. Although, however good these moments were in isolation, sometimes they were prolonged; it felt as if they were loitering on stage just to give the other performers time to get ready. This was my interpretation. Additionally, the dazzling skillsets displayed belonged to certain individuals alone, which fragmented the cast as a whole; they weren’t mixing enough with one another to represent a united front. However enjoyable the show might be the styles of performance did clash at times, due to the sheer amount of elements engaged in one piece.
It was clear that all of the cast gave it their best individually, and believed in the messages conveyed. Surprisingly, the show communicated a number of messages throughout, which are highlighted in the final act. Perhaps the most clear was at the ending; the message to “raise a voice for the voiceless” spoken by the main performer, Natalie. Another which stood out was that of honour and respect, the main drivers for Mowgli’s departure from the pack. Admirably, the director, Poppy Burton-Morgan, tried to both convey a clear message through the production and also have a number of art forms depicted on stage. Most of the elements worked well, but the constant drum machine beat accompanied by a loud snare was slightly too much sometimes.
Overall, the evolution of work since 2013 produced a unique show: Jungle Book is a lot of different things mixed into one, and it certainly was a wonderful show for younger people, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Despite this flaw, it was an enjoyable performance set in a one-of-a-kind venue, well-deserving of praise.
Adaptor and Director: Poppy Burton-Morgan
Producer: Metta Theatre
Choreographer: Kendra J Horsburgh
Booking Until: 28 August 2016
Booking Link: http://www.londonwonderground.co.uk/whats-on/jungle-book