Writer Jessica Swale offers a new take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book in a new play heading to Chichester Festival Theatre, directed by Max Webster and with music by Joe Stilgoe (January 25-February 3, www.cft.org.uk).
Originally written in 1894, Kipling’s tale has been reimagined with a brand-new score and script, exploring the universal themes of family, belonging and identity.
The Jungle Book tells of Mowgli the man cub who battles for survival in a heart-warming coming-of-age story about a boy raised by wolves in the jungle. With the help of his animal friends, including Bagheera the panther, Balloo the bear and Kaa the python, Mowgli outwits the cruel and powerful tiger, Shere Khan, and learns the law of the jungle.
Jessica said: “I jumped at the chance to adapt The Jungle Book because it’s such a vivid world yet, for a writer, there’s so much opportunity to imagine the jungle afresh. Part of the book’s enduring appeal is that the jungle can be anything we choose.
“It’s a playground, a school, a hideaway, an adventure, so I’ve enjoyed exploring what sort of place this mysterious, delightful, sometimes scary place might be – and what better way to do that than with Max Webster, one of the most inventive and imaginative directors working today.
“I loved the characters as Kipling wrote them, but wanted to find new voices which resonate now – funny, bright, dynamic voices, with a little more wit and greater diversity in terms of place, tone, gender and culture.
“It’s a funny, heart-filled roller coaster of a journey which I hope will transport the audience right round the world and back again.”
Director Max added: “The Jungle Book was an instant classic when it was written over a hundred years ago with its story of Mowgli finding his path through the jungle.
“Each generation has re imagined this story as their own, and now Jess Swale brings it right up to date in a hilarious and action-packed version for the 21st century.
“With wonderful songs by Joe Stilgoe, and packed with adventure, humour and magic, this classic tale will tickle the tales of all the family.”
The cast includes Rachel Dawson as Kaa Grey, Lloyd Gorman as Shere Khan, TJ Holmes as Hiran, Avita Jay as Raksha, Keziah Joseph as Mowgli, Dyfrig Morris as Balloo, Deborah Oyelade as Bagheera and Tripti Tripuraneni as Akala. They are joined by Ruri James and Chipo Kureya in the ensemble.
The show comes from The Children’s Touring Partnership, a producing partnership led by independent producer Fiery Angel and Chichester Festival Theatre and a consortium of major regional theatres.