‘You didn’t tell me it was a hip hop show,’ Ezra said, as we came out of The Jungle Book. Well, I’d wanted to surprise the boys. Plus, I didn’t quite know what to expect myself. The press release talked about skateboarding wolves and a beatboxing Baloo, but you have to see it to believe it!
Metta Theatre takes Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale and gives it a dope AF remix. This Jungle Book is set in London’s urban jungle, with a female Mowgli raised by skater kids (Wolves). They teach her the language of the ‘hood, cleverly described through dance styles e.g. Bear, Monkey and Snake moves. We meet hectic monkeys and Bagheera, the panther-like graffiti artist. Let’s not forget hypnotic Kaa, who snakes around a street lamp like a pole dancer.
When wolf leader Akela fails a skateboarding jump and injures himself, the pack threatens to fall apart. It’s time for tiger/gangsta rapper Shere Khan to try and claim Mowgli for himself.
But Mowgli has already gone back to the world she came from — amongst the city Suits. She’s discovered the power of the Red Flower (fire) which she uses to defeat Shere Khan. Her struggles aren’t over, however, as she still has to learn the ways of ‘civilised society’. A dress shop sets the stage for some enchanting dance sequences: Mowgli tries on pretty skirts and tutus, yet her wild style keeps busting loose.
The Jungle Book by Metta Theatre mixes everything from breakdancing to aerial hoop. It creates an experience that, much like Kaa, soon has you under its spell. The show bursts with attitude and should appeal to fans of Zoo Nation (choreographer Kendra J Horsburgh worked on Into the Hoods).
The Jungle Book is pitched at ages 8 and up, although some parts of the storyline flew right over Jed’s head. But he enjoyed it, and I saw several younger kids plus a couple of babies in the audience.
Grab your little monkeys and go.
The Jungle Book at Underbelly Festival: Babes Review
Jed, age 8
‘I thought it was a great show, it was very entertaining. Also I liked how it told the story. The part I remember most was when Mowgli was dancing with different costumes in the dress shop. My favourite character? I liked the guy who had hair like me (Baloo)! My rating is 4 and a half out of 5!’
Ezra, age 11
‘I thought it was a highly entertaining show that’s great for kids and adults of any age. I really liked the hip hop twist. The dance moves were good and I thought it was done very well. My highlight was when Mowgli went to the city and she didn’t fit in. It was funny how her mum wanted her to wear all of these outfits but she didn’t like them. I’d rate it 5 stars!’
The Jungle Book is playing at Underbelly Festival, South Bank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX (Waterlook/Embankment tube). Recommended for ages 8 up (younger ones welcome). Tickets from £11.50; shows at 12.45pm & 3pm (until Aug 24)