Pictures: Watermill Jungle rocks Newbury
The Jungle Book, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until December 31. Review by ROBIN STRAPP
The Watermill’s magical Christmas production of The Jungle Book, adapted and inventively directed by Tom Jackson Greaves, is filled with fun whimsical adventures and brimming with energy from a delightfully multi-talented cast of actor-musicians.
A towering knotted tree fills the upstage area with a neon sign with the message: “You belong here, this is your place.”
Hanging colourful clothes and shawls adorn the stage and a handcart is centre stage with lit blocks depicting the city towers – all create a fantastical immersive world.
The charismatic Guido Garcia Lueches is outstanding as Tabaqui the Jackal, the mysterious storyteller who charms the audience with his winning smile as he relates the tale of the lost cub “looking for their family just like us”.
Karishma Young plays the vulnerable Mowgli in this gender neutral casting who is desperate to find out “who I might be – when I can’t see anyone who looks like me?”. She skilfully uses dance as a method of communication and establishes a warm rapport with the audience.
Mowgli is brought up by the wolf pack and then adopted by the jungle animals Bagheera the panther (Philippa Hogg) and Baloo the Bear (Rowena Lennon), who are the surrogate guiding parents to the young cub teaching the ways of the jungle.
Alexander Bean plays the stately councillor Wolf and Kaa the python and has a powerful singing voice.
All are trying to protect Mowgli from the predator killer tiger Sheer Khan, the suave yet dangerous Peter Ashmore.
There is so much to enjoy in this family-friendly production, including the peanut disco party with the mischievous monkeys living it up to the full. Dom Coyote’s dynamic music is both catchy and emotional. Jasmine Swan’s wonderful colourful set and costume designs are a delight and enhanced by Andrew Exeter’s emotive lighting.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable production, the perfect start to the festive season and richly deserved the enthusiastic applause from the audience.