Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre
Reviewed for Writebase: https://writebase.co.uk/
They say the sun shines on the righteous, so here, only right that the forecast of rain was incorrect – though it became a biblical outpouring almost as soon as this swinging performance finished.
But in any case, nothing much would have drowned the spirit of the occasion, another excellent, and mischievous, adaptation by Glyn Maxwell, with an enthusiastic response; audience participation being sometimes verbal, sometimes gesticulated. And an intriguing opening, narration courtesy of a pair of…vultures, masquerading as half of a certain well known Liverpool band to begin with, later to be joined by a pair of quarrelsome brothers from a bit further North. The cunning little nods to lyrics also extended to the Disney film.
And is wasn’t just Kaa shedding his skin, ie played by Suzanne Ahmet more or less as a slinky belly dancer who eventually sees the error of her ways and joins forces with Baloo, Bagheers and even Shere Khan to defeat the evil monkeys. Mowgli too is transformed into a female, Purvi Parma adroitly showing a headstrong little girl who grows up to be a powerful woman, at the start, an abandoned baby about to be a tiger’s takeaway until rescued and looked after by Bagheera. He eventually feels she should be in the care of Baloo, an excellent teacher who has much wisdom to impart. But Mowgli, of course, rebels, and is easily led astray by the monkey troop, well, Seeno and Hearno, played by Victoria Brazier and Jenny Murphy, and even if they seemed naughty rather than malicious, for all their obsession with Man (and ‘things’, ie goods rather than fire), their antics provided much of the comedy.
Meanwhile, Jessica Dives as the third one, Speakno, proves a true friend to Mowgli, and Howard Chadwick as Baloo, again stands out in the humour stakes while Perry Moore makes an angry, wounded beast of Shere Khan – and I’d have said his was a first class impersonation of John Lennon but apparently it was Paul McCartney. Moving swiftly on, Darren Kuppan is the noble Bagheera, stalking the stage with great dignity.
And we’re back in the garden again, with tall poles to suggest a jungle setting. The costumes were basically sort of baggy dungarees, with striking design such as russet and purple to subtly suggest the big cats, and iridescent green for Kaa, although what looked like pink and white pompoms attached to the monkeys had me a bit confused. The music too seemed minimal for a children’s production, but was used effectively, to heighten tension etc.
Maybe brave in this day and age to focus on Kipling but nonetheless, lessons are learned, and not just those imparted by Baloo. Anyway, who better than denizens of the jungle to remind us how important it is to look after all creatures, and the Earth where we all dwell.