Keziah Joseph as Mowgli with the Jungle Book company. Pictures: Manuel Harlan

The Jungle Book

Malvern Theatres


The Jungle Book was originally written as a collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling in 1894 and this modern adaptation by Jessica Swale transformed Malvern’s Festival Stage into a vibrant Indian Jungle following the ‘man-cub’ Mowgli’s struggle for survival.

My five-year-old daughter, who loves the Disney version from 1967, knows all the words to the catchy soundtrack with Sherman Brothers classics like I Wan’na Be Like You and who can forget Terry Gilkyson’s Bare Necessities so Joe Stilgoe had a lot to live up to and didn’t disappoint.

Although Stilgoe was only ever commissioned to write four songs he ended up writing 12 which definitely helped bring the stage show to life with lyrics like We’re all in the same jungle, we’re all under one roof….we might speak a different language but we all breathe the same air. Stilgoe is the son of lyricist and composer Richard Stilgoe of Starlight Express and Cats fame.

The casting has helped catapult this show into the 21st century with many roles reversed to favour a more female led cast with Akela, the leader of the wolves played by Tripti Tripuraneni, Kaa, the snake, by Rachel Dawson, Bagheera the panther as Deborah Oyelade and most prominent Mowgli, the man-cub, as Keziah Joseph.

The fabulous set and costume designer Peter McKintosh creatively displayed painted ladders to represent jungle fauna and a rotating floor with more ladders tied together to make clever climbing apparatus allowed the viewer to go along with the movement and flow of the journey Mowgli takes being raised by wolves and taught the rules of the jungle by trusted guardians Bagheera and Balloo, comically performed by Dyfrig Morris.


There was danger and drama with fights and fire every time Lloyd Gorman as Shere Khan prowled on to set with his sparkly orange stripes and devilish tail. We were taken on an emotional roller coaster under the direction of Max Webster and when Mowgli finally decided to find ‘Woman’ in the Man Village and leave his creature friends behind to be with his mother there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

This family show by the Children’s Touring Partnership and Royal & Derngate, Northampton is a show not to be missed as this fabulous tale brings adventure, danger and humour all wrapped up in a magical score including talented Portuguese percussionist Diogo Gomes who was on stage throughout.

Live music, including five actor-musicians wows the audience and how many times can you say you’ve seen a monkey play the cello at the same time? The monkeys came out with phrases like ‘OMG’ and ‘Are you stinking what I’m stinking’ which made it appeal to younger audience members.

The Jungle Book at Malvern Theatres was a musical delight with powerful vocals from Keziah Joseph as Mowgli, humour from tree rubbing, prickly pear eating Balloo from Dyfrig Morris, a favourite with the kids and charismatic Bagheera who was feisty and strong so no wonder Shere Khan didn’t stand a chance. Lloyd Gorman brought danger and drama as the tiger but Mowgli won our hearts.

The Jungle Book Tour continues to Cambridge Arts Theatre to 28-03-18 (01223 503333) or then the tour continues to Newcastle, Plymouth, Norwich, Nottingham, Canterbury, Salford and Blackpool.

Emma Trimble


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