THE JUNGLE BOOK
Bridge House Theatre, Warwick, Friday 13th January, 2017
The irrepressible Oddsocks turn their attention to Kipling’s classic stories for their winter production and it would be Rudyard not to love it. Writer Elli Mackenzie delivers all the key points and character relationships while allowing plenty of room for the company’s trademark humour. It’s a great fit. There is even more than a touch of the original’s darker moments – this is an Oddsocks show with emotional range, but fear not, it is also exceedingly funny.
Jora Singh is man-cub Mowgli, a wiry, energetic figure with expressive, Buster Keaton eyes. It’s a highly physical role and Singh soon establishes himself as a likeable presence. Miranda Heath’s Bagheera is a slinky, Catwoman persona, all latent power and feline superiority. Barry Shannon’s Baloo is lazy and avuncular – his slow-moving Akela is hilarious and gets the kids heckling from the back of the auditorium. Jennifer Shakesby brings complexity to Mowgli’s wolf brother, Greyone – a game of fetch takes on significance as the relationship develops – but it is her appearance as Kaa the python that provides a highlight of the first act.
Andy Barrow’s orangutan has more than a touch of the Boris Johnson to him in a sharply satirical scene in which monkeys urge Mowgli to leave the jungle. The political comment is enjoyed by the grown-ups. Barrow is also the villain of the piece, Shere Khan, here portrayed as a bombastic Maharajah-type, chewing the scenery as much as some of the other animals!
Barrow, as ever, directs and keeps the surprises coming. The elephant is breath-taking but there is an even greater masterstroke to come when Shere Khan meets his fate that takes your breath away for its comic invention and effectiveness. You have to be very clever indeed to be this daft and get away with it.
As you’d expect from this troupe, there are groanworthy gags, puppets and live music, and some panto-style audience participation, but this show is also strong on plot and character development, making for an excellent evening of family-friendly fare that further secures Oddsocks’ reputation as the most entertaining and delightful company on the road today.