The Jungle Book
Lanre Malaolu and Jake Davies star in the Citz' irreverent drum & bass-themed adaptation
Rudyard Kipling is down with the kids: who knew? The Citizens Theatre’s festive version of The Jungle Book is a two-hour long pun on jungle the musical genre as well as the place where bears, snakes, monkeys and wolves (this is fiction, not David Attenborough) battle over small boys.
It’s a visual treat, mixing both meanings of the word in a neon, streamer-strewn set that allows the cast to leap, swing, climb and pole dance around the space. The costumes are grand, full of references and jokes. Shere Khan – a fizzing, menacing, blinging Lanre Malaolu – is particularly fine in red PVC joggers, a tribal tattoo-printed bodysuit and full-length tiger skin coat. (At one point, before a fight sequence, he takes it off and hangs it up like a boxer removing his satin dressing gown.)
The plot, however, sags. There is far too much exposition in the first half. It jumps from wordy drama (with drumming) to panto participation. Mowgli is also a problem: Jake Davies plays him as a whining trustafarian, complete with ratty Caucasian dreadlocks and funny sandals. Empathy? No chance.
It picks up after the interval. The choreography is pacy. It looks great. But looks aren't everything.
Citizens Theatre until Sun 5 Jan.