Music by Joe Stilgoe. From the stories by Rudyard Kipling.

Nick Hern Books 2019 ISBN: 9781848429253

This is a lively adaptation which I would have loved to have seen in performance! I am sure it plays well and better than it actually reads. In her introduction Jessica writes that it is “the tale of a tribe, a great big extended family, who must learn to love and respect each of their members as individuals if they are to survive as a community. That is why I was compelled to write this adaptation. Because The Jungle Book offers us a chance to think about the nature of inclusivity and diversity, and to celebrate it, in all its forms.” What could be more relevant today!

Jessica has switched the gender of several of the characters, notably Akela, Bagheera and Kaa and possibly Mowgli. This was because in the original book there seem to be very few females in the jungle. However, she tells us that we are free to cast whoever we wish in these roles. The role of puppets seems unavoidable – the baby Mowgli who has to progress to a toddler before appearing as a child able to speak.

There is also a buffalo who is hunted and a deer. Costume was used very freely, giving just a hint of the animals rather than dressing them up as such. Movement, however, was stressed as being of great importance.

The play was written to be performed by the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Children’s Touring Partnership and Fiery Angel as a co-production. I feel that this is really the type of group who would tackle this. Perhaps some of the Bagheera, Baloo and Mowgli scenes would be possible for students. Some experienced Youth groups might be up for the challenge?

I felt it would have been helpful if there had been some indication as to how to get hold of the score, and maybe whether it would be possible to hire the puppets?

Penny Charteris is an adjudicator with The British and International Federation of Festivals, actress and previously Guildhall examiner. She was the membership registrar for the STSD. Penny spent seven years at The Palace Theatre, Watford, and played in the Jimmy Perry pantomimes there.

Book review – The Jungle Book by Jessica Swale