For the majority of people, thinking of the Jungle Book brings back memories of an orphaned human boy on a journey of self-discovery, raised by a group of animals, singing I Wan’na Be Like You. This is not, however, what you’ll find here. Poppy Burton-Morgan has adapted Rudyard Kipling’s classic story with an acutely modern twist, including street-dance, skateboards and rap.
The 70-minute production kicks off with Baloo, the funk-loving bin man (also the narrator) introducing you to the human counterparts of the much-loved animal characters from the original story. Each character has a dance genre that fits perfectly with the animal they are portraying. Baloo takes you back to where Mowglis’ story began 13 years ago, the narrative following her on a journey as she struggles to find her place in the world, while also dealing with the separation from her mother.
The production is first and foremost a contemporary dance piece intertwined with street dance, acrobatics and a tiny snippet of ballet and ballroom. There are some spectacular moments of movement, including the use of a hoop swing, rope and a pole disguised as a lamppost. Each of the dancers excels in their own genre of dance, displaying real strengths in their solo work, although perhaps not as tight as it could be when in unison.
The set is created to portray an urban street with five street lights. It is clean and simple, allowing room for the dancers to make the most of the floor space. The music has urban themes and is fairly uniform throughout the production, maintaining a similar beat, however this does become somewhat repetitive by the end of the performance.
There are a number of really stand-out moments in this production, including a daring pole dance performed by Kaa (Nathalie Alison) dropping high from the pole, using just her legs for security; an absolutely spectacular feat that resulted in the audience drawing in their collective breaths, and the fantastic Shere Khan (Kaner Scott) who also evokes a strong reaction with his body popping and somewhat uncomfortable contortionism.