Review: The Jungle Book - New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Opening with a beautifully crafted puppet of a young Mowgli, The Jungle Book promises to take its young audience on a thrilling journey through the wild. The Birmingham Stage company’s cast prove themselves to be brilliant storytellers - combining Kipling’s classic story with a good strong dose of enthusiasm to create this fantastically fun piece of theatre bound to delight children everywhere.

Samuel Hargreaves has the audience in the palm of his hands with his performance as Mowgli, young theatregoers on the edge of their seats as they eagerly follow his quest to overcome King of the Jungle, Shere Khan. His mentor Baloo, played by the fantastic Rob Hughes, is equally strong and Hughes embodies the famous bear perfectly to create a completely loveable character.

The use of puppets is excellent, from the baby Mowgli that opens the show to the exquisite elephants that close it, the show uses them seamlessly throughout, weaving them into the production in just the right doses to keep the audience excited. The puppet of Kaa the snake is controlled brilliantly by Laura Waggot but I do wonder if her characterisation is quite up to the same standard, as one young girl over-excitedly offered herself up when Waggot threatened to dine on an audience member.

Whilst packed with music, Disney-lovers beware: the songs are all entirely original and though enjoyable, if you’re expecting Bare Necessities you’ll be disappointed. The soundtrack to the show is strong, though, even managing to fit in rapping monkeys to keep all ages in the audience laughing.

The plot works well to keep Kipling’s original story, which works in their favour as almost all of the audience seemed familiar with the film, though there were moments when – probably in a conscious effort to appeal to parents and grandparents – plot and dialogue was too much for the youngest audience members, with one child voicing rather loudly: “WHAT ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?!”

The show as a whole is a brilliant night out for families, with excited children entering the theatre and satisfied ones leaving; there was something for everyone in the adventure to the jungle.

The show plays until Saturday at the New Wimbledon Theatre, moving onto Aylesbury, Woking and Crawley before its Christmas season at Birmingham’s Old Rep theatre. Keep an eye on the site as we’ll be giving away 4 tickets for the production in Birmingham.

Review by Louise Miles